Sunday, May 16, 2010

Creamy Spinach and Tofu Spaghetti

Three years ago I would have balked at tofu (and if I'm honest, three months ago, I would have balked at tofu) but here I am sharing a recipe of which the main ingredient is tofu. I have very little knowledge of tofu except that it is a healthy alternative to meat and a good source of protein. I had no idea where to find tofu in the store and had to ask two employees before I found it. The first told me it was in the bakery (which I should have known was an odd choice but I took him as an expert) and then the kindly woman baker told me to go to the produce section. I still thought that was an odd choice considering the last time I checked, tofu doesn't grow from a plant, but I did find it tucked in its little corner next to the fresh herbs and baby carrots.

So I made this easy enough pasta dish that makes me feel like I am actually being healthy considering every time I take a bite the flavor of the fresh spinach, heart-healthy olive oil, and protein-packed tofu perfectly complements the hearty bite of the whole wheat spaghetti. So eat up! And then grab that ice cream in the refrigerator. Because I sincerely feel that you have earned that sweet luxury if you can claim you had tofu for dinner.

Creamy Spinach and Tofu Spaghetti
from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2007 or here

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
Cooking Spray
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
2 cups tightly packed fresh baby spinach
1 1/2 cups cubed reduced-fat silken tofu (about 6 ounces)
1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup grated fresh pecorino Romano cheese
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups hot cooked whole wheat spaghetti (about 8 ounces uncooked)
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (I tried to toast these on the stove and almost, well, did, burn them. Just thought I would share.)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place tomatoes, cu sides up, on a jelly-roll pan coated with cooking spray. Drizzle tomatoes with 2 teaspoons oil and sprinkle evenly with 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Bake at 450 degree for 7 minutes or until tender.
Place 2 teaspoons oil, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, spinach, and next six ingredients in a food processor; process until smooth.
Combine spinach mixture and pasta in a large skillet; cook over low heat two minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring occasionally. Gently stir in tomatoes and pine nuts. Serve immediately. Yields 4 servings (about 1 1/4 cups a serving).

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Honey Roasted Peanut Thumbprint Cookies

My friends and family often laugh at my obsession with routine. Every morning I have pretty much the same sequence of events – I eat my breakfast at the same point during my getting-ready routine and I use the number of times the local news has their spot during the Today Show to indicate whether or not I am on schedule. This Sunday morning was a little different in that instead of our usual church service, followed by lunch, followed by a few errands, followed by time with John, followed by dinner, and culminating with my return drive to Charlotte – we played hooky. Mom cooked up some waffles for breakfast and I cooked up some of these cookies for a post-breakfast ‘dessert.’

One can imagine how dessert after breakfast would completely appall one widely devoted to normalcy yet this fit for some reason. Maybe it was the longer-than-usual week or the rather emotional weekend, but either way, it seemed like the right thing to do.

The ingredients for these cookies were easy enough to find laying around the house and, although the steps were a little more complicated than the ‘common’ drop cookie (no offense, I am a fan of those too), they were the prettiest cookies I’ve ever made (without the hassle of icing) and would be perfect for a shower, luncheon, or just a playing-hooky-from-church-kind-of-Sunday-morning.

Honey Roasted Peanut Thumbprint Cookies

From Joy the Baker

1 3/4 cups finely ground honey roasted peanuts (I used the food processor and used about 2 cups of peanuts to make the 1 3/4 cups of finely ground nuts)

1 3/4 cups flour

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Powdered sugar for dusting

About 1 cup of quality jam of your choice (I chose Apricot but thought about how a red jam would be great for Christmas or how a Grape Jam would be pretty against the beige-ness of the cookies)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment or foil and set aside.

Whisk together ground peanuts and flour. Using a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment (or a stand mixer), beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy – about 3 or 4 minutes. Add the extract and beat to blend. Reduce the speed of the mixer to low and gradually add the nut-flour mixture, mixing only until just incorporated. Use a spatula to hand mix any flour or nuts that have not been mixed in thoroughly.

Working with a scant tablespoon of dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms to form small balls and place the balls two inches apart on the cookie sheet. Steadying each cookie with one hand, use the pinky of your other hand to press an indentation in the center of each cookie.

Bake for 15 – 18 minutes (mine took just 15). The cookies will only be slightly colored – don’t overbake them. When the cookies are done, remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest for 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a metal spatula. Bring the jam to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat. Sprinkle the cookies with powdered sugar and then fill the indentations with the jam of your choice. Don’t worry if the indentations disappeared during baking – you can carefully make them more prominent using your fingers or just put less jam on the cookie. Either way they will look and taste delicious!