Monday, April 26, 2010

Cream of Mushroom Soup w/Dried Mushrooms

When my sister brought me gifts from Japan, I was equally thrilled for the dried mushrooms as I was for the boxes of green tea! I am so lucky to have her. Instead of a thank you note, I made this soup for her. I think nothing is more heartwarming and tastes like home than homemade mushroom soup:-)

I used dried shiitake as they have a wonderful smoky flavor and a meaty texture. Don't worry if you don't have heavy cream at home, this recipe doesn't require cream. I promise no one will notice!

12 ounces of fresh mushrooms (sliced)
1 cup dried mushrooms (shiitake)
2 tbs butter (or canola oil)
4 tablespoon flour
 (I used white whole wheat)
4 cups of water (or chicken broth)
6 cups of milk (or you can use 3 cups of half and half 3 cups regular milk)
Salt and Pepper

1.Always wash the mushrooms before soaking to remove any unwanted grit. Some methods for reconstituting call for soaking in hot tap water for 20-30 minutes, while others suggest simmering for 30 minutes. Depending upon the thickness, type of mushroom, and quality, soaking times will vary, but the most consistent way to reconstitute is to boil water, then soak the mushrooms in the water for 20-30 minutes as it cools.
2.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the mushrooms and reserve the broth. Roughly chop the mushrooms.
3. Heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat, whisk in the flour until smooth.
4. Pour in the reserved mushroom broth, and bring to a boil while whisking constantly (you can also use a hand blender).
4. Add the mushrooms and cook for about 20 min.
5. Whisk the milk, and salt into the soup and season with fresh grounded pepper to taste, bring to a boil and cook until thickened.
6. Divide among warm soup bowls and enjoy!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Healthy Treats/Whole-Wheat Crepes

You can use any type of filling (sweet, fruit or savory) with this crepe recipe and no one will suspect these are made with whole wheat flour! I love them for breakfast, but you can make them as a desert with frozen berries and 1 tablespoon crème de cassis, (or black currant syrup)

1 cups whole wheat flour or buckwheat (I used white whole wheat)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup milk
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled (or canola oil)
1 teaspoon sugar, (if you want to make dessert crepes; optional)
1/2 teaspoon salt


1. Combine whole-wheat flour, sugar (if using), salt, eggs, milk and butter (or oil) in a food processor or blender; process until smooth, scraping the sides once or twice. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or overnight.

2. Lightly oil a small nonstick skillet with a crumpled paper towel; heat the skillet over medium-high heat. Ladle about 2 tablespoons batter into the skillet with a small ladle or measuring cup; immediately tilt and rotate the pan to spread the batter evenly over the bottom.
3. Cook the crepe until the underside is lightly browned, about 30 seconds. Using a small metal spatula or a fork, lift the edge of the crepe, quickly grasp it with your fingers and flip. Cook until the second side is lightly browned, about 20 seconds longer. Slide the crepe onto a plate. Enjoy!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Quick Mixed Berry Topping

You can also serve this topping over angel food cake or Greek-style yogurt. (Recipe is adapted from EatingWell Magazine March/April 2008)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Got Quinoa? Turkish Tabbouleh (Kısır) with Quinoa

Quinoa is a recently rediscovered ancient "grain" once considered "the gold of the Incas." Not only is quinoa high in protein, but the protein it supplies is complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. In addition to protein, quinoa features a host of other health-building nutrients. These amino acid-rich seeds are not only very nutritious, but also very delicious. Cooked quinoa seeds are fluffy and creamy, yet slightly crunchy. They have a delicate, somewhat nutty flavor. You can serve this dish as a salad, appetizer or light summertime meal.

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups cold water
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp pepper paste
1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 green onions, finely chopped
1 small red onion, petite diced
1 bunch Italian parsley, finely chopped
1 large tomato, diced
1 cucumber, petite diced
2 tbsp pomegranate syrup*
1 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp mint flakes
juice of 1 lemon
Romain lettuce leaves


1.Soak the quinoa for 15 min - 1/2 hour in it's cooking pot. Soaking helps quinoa to cook evenly, and loosens up the outer coating of saponin, which can give a bitter taste if not removed. If you don't have time for a longer soaking, use hot water and soak for five minutes

2.To Rinse: Stir the quinoa with your hand, and carefully pour off the rinsing water, using a fine mesh strainer at the last. Drain quinoa well in the strainer, transfer to the cooking pot, add 1 1/2 cups water & 1/2 tsp salt if desired.

3.Bring to a boil, cover with a tight fitting lid, and turn the heat down to simmer cook for 15 minutes.

4. Remove quinoa from heat and allow to sit five minutes with the lid on. When cooking is complete, you will notice that the grains have become translucent, and the white germ has partially detached itself, appearing like a white-spiraled tail. If you desire the quinoa to have a nuttier flavor, you can dry roast it before cooking; to dry roast, place it in a skillet over medium-low heat and stir constantly for five minutes.

5. Put tomato and pepper paste in a big bowl and melt them with boiling hot water. Add the quiono into this mix. Stir once. Fluff quinoa gently with a fork.

6. Add pepper flakes, ground pepper, cumin, mint flakes, oil, pomegranate syrup, lemon juice, and red onion. Mix well. At this point taste to see if it needs more lemon juice.

7. Add tomatoes, spring onions, cucumber, and parsley. Mix gently and serve on a lettuce bed.

*Traditionally Kisir (Turkish Tabbouleh) is made with Bulgur. It is very delicious with bulgur also. If you want to try this recipe the traditional way use 2 cups of fine Bulgur and 2 cups of hot water instead of Quiona and skip the steps 1-4 above. Instead pour the tomato and pepper paste mix into bulgur. Stir and cover with a thick kitchen towel and let it soak the water for 10-15 minutes. Then repeat the steps six and seven.

If you don't have Pomegranate Syrup at home you can make your own, or you can find it online, I strongly suggest to make your own, it is not only great for this recipe it also makes a great salad dressing. If you decide not to use pomegranate syrup in this recipe increase the amount of lemon juice.

Pomegranate Syrup or Molasses

4 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

For Syrup: Place the pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice in a 4-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the mixture has reduced to 1 1/2 cups, approximately 50 minutes. It should be the consistency of syrup. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the saucepan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to cool completely before covering and storing in the refrigerator for up to 6 months.

For Molasses: Place the pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice in a 4-quart saucepan set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the sugar has dissolved, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until the mixture has reduced to 1 cup, approximately 70 minutes. It should be the consistency of thick syrup. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the saucepan for 30 minutes. Transfer to a glass jar and allow to cool completely before covering and storing in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. (Recipe for Pomegranate Syrup-Molasses is adapted from Alton Brown for original molasses recipe go to

Monday, April 19, 2010

Turkish Spinach Pie (Ispanakli Borek)

Borek is a general term in Turkish cuisine that applies to a family of pastries with about fifty different members. It is a type of baked or fried filled pastry, made of a thin flaky dough known as yufka (or phyllo). It can be filled with cheese, often feta, or kaşar, ground meat, or vegetables such as spinach, zucchini, potatoes, leeks, also carrot and peas. Spinach Borek is very popular in the countries composing the former Ottoman Empire such as Greece. This recipe may sound time consuming but as Alton Brown always says :"YOUR PATIENCE WILL BE REWARDED!":-)

40 phyllo dough sheets (1 packet)
1 lb fresh spinach (semi-savoy,chopped and washed thoroughly)
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
1/2 cup crumbled feta (you can also use ricotta or cream cheese)*
4 eggs
1 and 1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil or canola oil for egg mixture
2 tbs olive oil for spinach (or butter)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
nigella seeds and/or sesame seeds


1. Preheat oven to 375F. Thaw phyllos according to the instructions on the package. Generally speaking, you want to thaw the dough slowly, in its box and wrapping bag. Some companies include microwave thawing instructions. This is very risky. Thaw too quickly or at too high a power and you will end up with a gummy wet mess instead of separate sheets. Keep stacks covered with a dampened clean kitchen towel (Do not place the towel directly on top of the dough.)
2. Heat 2tbs of olive oil in a pan. Add the onions and saute until translucent. Add chopped spinach after the onions change color and cook for a few minutes. Spinach may look a lot but it will reduce significantly when it is cooked.
3.Cool the spinach for 5 min. Season with salt and pepper and add cheese (you can also add some crushed red pepper).
4. In another bowl beat the eggs and add milk and olive oil. Mix well.
5. Grease a pan that's approximately the same size with phyllo sheets. Layer half of phyllo dough sheets in the pan by brushing every single layer generously with the liquid mixture.
6. On the 20th phyllo spread spinach mix. Keep layering the rest of phyllos by brushing each layer with the mixture.
7. After putting down the last phyllo, pour the rest of the egg mixture on top.Sprinkle the pie with nigella seeds and/or sesame seeds.
8. Bake in a preheated oven 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. When cooked sprinkle 1 tbs of cold water over the pie, right after removing from oven and cover with a kitchen towel. Wait for 5 to 10 min. and then cut and serve.

* You can also skip the cheese in this recipe and make with spinach filling only. If you are using ricoatta: using a coffee filter set over a bowl, drain the ricotta and discard the liquid.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Zucchini Bread with Roasted Red Peppers and Feta (Kozlenmis Biberli Kabakli Ekmek)

1 1/2 cups zucchini (grated, squeezed and drained)
2 roasted red peppers (chopped)
2 cloves garlic (grated)
1/2 cup feta (crumbled)
1 teaspoon oregano
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1. Mix the zucchini, roasted red pepper, garlic, feta, oregano, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and eggs in a large bowl.
2. Mix the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and oregano in a bowl.
3. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients.
4. Pour the batter into a greased 9x5 inch loaf pan.
5. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until a toothpick pushed into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Light Whole Wheat Bluberry Muffin that Has Berry in Every Bite

One serving of blueberries contains as many valuable antioxidants as five servings of apples, carrots or broccoli. Can you think of a better way to pack more antioxidant power? This lightened up version of the bluberry muffins is a healthy alternative to usual coffe house muffins and also perfect for snacks and lunch boxes.

1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup milk/or buttermilk(I used vanilla soy milk)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar (or 1/2 cup splenda)
2 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with non-stick spray.
2. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
3. In a large bowl, stir together the milk, oil, egg, sugar, and vanilla extract until well-blended. Stir in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not over mix. Gently fold in the blueberries.
4. Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups, filling them about two-thirds full. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 5 minutes. Remove to the rack to cool completely.

* For beginner muffin makers it is crucial to know not to mix the batter too long or else you will end up with tough, poorly risen muffins. Combine wet and dry with the fewest strokes possible, there should still be some lumps and perhaps even light streaks of flour.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Carrot & Orange Muffins

Can you think of a better way to brighten up a rainy day? Carrots and Orange create a very light and delicate flavor combination, when combined with walnuts these muffins need no further adornment. The pitfall with all muffin batters is in over mixing the batter and ending up with a tough muffin. So make sure you only mix the batter until the ingredients are combined and moistened.

2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/3 cup canola oil (substitution: 1/2 cup apple sauce)
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup brown sugar
1 medium carrot- grated
2 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/3 cup walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with nonstick vegetable spray.
2. Beat together brown sugar, oil (or applesauce substitute), vanilla extract, carrot, orange juice and eggs.
3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and orange zest. Slowly blend into wet ingredients.
4. Add walnuts and mix until just combined.
5. Spoon approximately 3/4 cup of batter into prepared tin. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Light Zucchini Musakka (Kabak Musakka)

Though it is part of all the cuisines of the former Ottoman region, in the West, it is best-known in its Greek form. Arabic musakka is consumed as a salad made with aubergines and tomatoes. Greek style mousakka is more like a lasagna with the bechamel sauce on it. Turkish musakka, on the other hand, is not layered. Instead, it is prepared with sauteed aubergines/zucchini, green peppers, tomatoes, onions, and minced meat.

Following is a lighter version of Turkish Musakka, original recipe requires zucchini to be fried before incorporating with the sauce but I skipped frying process to make it lighter and healthier.

4 medium zucchini*
1/4 pound ground turkey (original recipe requires ground lamb/beef)
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 big onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic (optional)
1 (14.5 oz) can tomatoes - petite diced (or 3 tomatoes)
2 tbs tomato paste
Freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley and/or dill

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.

2. Add the ground turkey and cook over moderate heat, stirring often, until brown.

3. Add onion (and optional garlic) and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, about 4 minutes.

4. Add the tomato paste and stir for 2 min, and and tomatoes cook for 3-4 min.

5. Add the zucchini and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until just tender, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Transfer the zucchini to a bowl and let cool slightly. Sprinkle with the parsley and serve warm or at room temperature.

For vegetarian version:

1. Use 1/2 cup soya mince/TVP instead of ground meat, soak 1/2 cup of TVP with almost 1/2 cup of boiling hot water.

2.Stir in TVP after sauteing the onion and garlic.

3. Repeat the steps 4 and 5 and then add 1 cup of canned garbanzo beans cook for couple minutes. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley and/or dill. (Vegetarian version is adapted from Almost Turkish Recipes.)

* If you have time you can soak the zucchini in a saltwater bath for 25 minutes, so it stays green and crisp even after it’s cooked.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tex-Mex Stuffed Acorn Squash

Great fall recipe from flat belly diet book, it is easy and quick. It has become a family favorite since the first time I tried it.

2 med acorn squash (about 1¼ lb each), halved and seeded
2 tsp olive oil
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
1 c canned black beans, rinsed and drained
½ c pine nuts, toasted (you can use sliced almonds if you don't have pine nuts)
1 lg tomato (6 oz), coarsely chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tsp ground cumin
2 oz reduced-fat Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, shredded (about ½ c)

1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Coat rimmed baking sheet with olive oil spray.

2. Brush cut sides and cavity of squash with oil. Sprinkle with ¼ teaspoon of the pepper. Place cut-side down on prepared baking sheet. Bake 30 to 40 minutes until tender (don’t pierce with fork). Turn cut-side up.

3. Mix beans, pine nuts, tomato, scallions, cumin, and remaining ¼ teaspoon pepper in medium bowl. Spoon heaping ½ cup of bean mixture into each squash half, pressing down gently to get all filling in. Sprinkle evenly with cheese.

4. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden brown

Nutritional Info Per Serving: 324 cal, 12 g pro, 38 g carb, 8 g fiber, 17.5 g fat, 3 g sat fat, 10 mg chol, 363 mg sodium

According to Flat Belly Book, this squash dish supplies nearly four servings of veggies.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Okra in Olive Oil

1 1/2 pounds pointed okra (if you are using dried okra use 1 cup)
10 oz. package pearl onions (you can also use 1 big onion finely chopped)
2 garlic cloves
1 can tomatoes (petite diced)
2 cups of boiling water
1 cup/can chickpeas (pre-cooked)
1 tbsp of tomato paste
3 to 4 sun dried tomatoes
2-3 dried chili peppers
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 lemon's juice
1 tsp pomegranate syrup
salt, pepper

1. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onions until transculent,
2. Add tomato paste and stir for 2 min.
3. Add canned tomatoes and garlic stir for 4 more min. and add water
4. Add okra, chickpeas, sun dried tomatoes and chili peppers, pomegranate syrup and cook on low for 35 to 40 min.
5. Add the lemon juice before turning off the heat.
How to peel pearl onions:
With a paring knife, cut off the tip of the onion opposite the root end. Cook in boiling water 2 minutes. Drain. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Squeeze each onion gently at root end. The onion will pop right out of its skin!. Slice off remaining roots.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Savory Zucchini Bread (Kabakli Ekmek)

2 medium zucchini (shredded)
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cup whole wheat flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs
1 cup feta cheese or any white cheese (crumbled)
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup Dill (chopped, if you are using dried dill use 2 tbs)
salt and black pepper

1. Pre-heat the oven at 375°F.
2. Lightly grease the loaf pan and sprinkle with a little flour.
3. In a small cup beat the eggs and add milk and oil mix well.
4. In a large bowl mix flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
5. Add the egg mixture, zucchini, cheese, dill and mix.
6. Transfer the dough to the buttered loaf pan and bake for 30 min and then rotate the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes longer.
7. Turn the loaf out of the pan and let it cool on a wire rack.
8. Serve the bread warm or at room temperature.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Zucchini Muffin

1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 cup shredded zucchini (frozen)
1 large egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt  
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

  1. Use 2 medium-sized zucchini for every 1 cup shredded zucchini that you need.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12 muffin pan and set aside.
  3. In a bowl, stir the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt and baking soda. Set it aside.
  4. In a larger bowl beat with a hand mixer the sugar, zucchini and the egg. Now add the vegetable oil.
  5. With a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the zucchini mixture.
  6. Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  7. Take out of oven and let cool about 10 minutes then remove from pan.