Friday, April 30, 2010

Rosemary and Garlic Wheat Bread

Making bread from scratch is probably easier than you think. My mom has always been great at making healthy, homemade bread. I didn't ever feel compelled to try until I was watching something with a bunch of French bakers making massive amounts of baguettes, croissants and other delicious goodies. For some reason it looked really satisfying, and you know what? It is. This bread doesn't really need to be kneaded, just stirred, but it's still gratifying to pull something pretty out of the oven that you made from a few simple ingredients and thanks to weird chemical properties of yeast. You could easily double this, the loaves are fairly small. You can make this will all white or all whole wheat flour, I went with half and half. I adapted this from the measurements and times given in another recipe, but I made quite a few alterations.
Also, I use Herbes de Provence quite a bit. I usually just use whatever spices I have around without stressing out about buying everything a recipe calls for, but you should really try this. It's a mixture of dry herbs (mine includes thyme, marjoram, rosemary, basil, fennel, sage and lavender - there may be some variation from brand-to-brand). It's amazing in bread and goes well on chicken, lamb and plenty of other stuff. Plus, herbs are a great way to add a lot of flavor for virtually no added calories. I added more dry rosemary leave to this so that flavor would really stand out.

Rosemary and Garlic Wheat Bread


1 cup luke warm water
1 and 1/2 tsps. active dry yeast
1/2 tbsp. Herbes de Provence
2 cloves garlic, mixed
1/2 tsp. dry (or fresh) rosemary leaves
3 tbsps. olive oil
1 egg, beaten
1 and 1/2 tsps. salt
1/4 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
1/4 tsp. sugar
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
2 tbsps. vital wheat gluten


1. The water should be around 90 degrees, a bit warmer than body temperature. The yeast won't activate in water too cool and if the water it too hot it will kill it. Mix the yeast, water and sugar and let it sit until it gets a little foamy, five to ten minutes.
2. After yeast mixture is ready, mix in the oil, salt and one cup of the flour and stir until incorporated. Mix in the rest of the flour one-half cup at a time. Add the vital wheat gluten. Stir until elastic.

3. After all of the flour is incorporated stir in the pepper, rosemary, Herbes de Provence and garlic until incorporated.
4. Transfer the dough into a clean bowl with a couple teaspoons of olive oil and roll the dough around until the whole ball is lubricated. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place for about an hour, or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 175 degrees.
4. When dough has risen, separate into two loaves and make two slits in the top with a sharp knife.

5. Brush the beaten egg over the dough and place into the warm oven. Allow dough to rise a bit more in the oven, about fifteen minutes. Increase heat to 350 degrees and cook for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.
6. Transfer loaves to a rack and sprinkle with salt while still hot. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quick Asian Stir Fry with Shrimp

This is a great recipe if you want to cook for one or two (and have some leftovers). When frozen, pre-cooked shrimp are on sale I'll buy a bag and slowly use them over time. If you buy them on sale and only use a bit at a time the bag will actually last for quite awhile. The wasabi sauce adds a little extra kick to this. The wasabi aioli is milder than real wasabi and you can adjust the amount of olive oil and soy sauce depending on your tastes.

Quick Asian Stir Fry with Shrimp


1 cup uncooked instant brown rice (white works too!)
3 cloves minced garlic
1 12 oz package of fresh stir fry veggies (mine had broccoli, snap peas, shredded carrot and broccoli slaw)
1 tsp. chili garlic sauce
1 tbsp. olive oil
2-3 tsps. low sodium soy sauce
10 frozen shrimp

Wasabi Soy Sauce


1 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
1 tbsp. wasabi aioli (you can typically find it by the seafood in the grocery store)
1 tsp. sesame seeds


1. Begin boiling water for rice and follow package directions
2. Run cold water over shrimp in the a colander
3. Heat olive oil and minced garlic in pan, add stir fry veggies after garlic has sauteed slightly
4. Add the chili garlic sauce and soy sauce to veggies and continue to cook over medium heat for a few minutes. If the broccoli is taking a bit longer to cook, add a couple tablespoons of water, reduce heat to medium-low and cover.
5. When broccoli is about done add the defrosted shrimp and heat through.
6. While shrimp is cooking mix the wasabi aioli, olive oil, soy sauce and sesame seeds. Incorporate with a fork or mini-whisk.
7. Serve the shrimp and stir fry veggies over rice and drizzle with the wasabi soy sauce. Garnish with extra sesame seeds.

Crunch Time Equals Munch Time

Ok, starting a blog a couple of weeks before finals may not have been my most brilliant idea ever. I am halfway through the two-week finals stretch and looking forward to feeling a little less stressed out, getting back into my usual cooking routine and gracing the lovely people of the YMCA with my presence again in about a week. But until then I'm doing a bit more frozen food, quick snacks and fast food (sigh) than I would like to be. I thought I would share a few of my more decadent snacks that I have been grabbing in between making flash cards and outlining.

Whole Wheat Toast with Nutella and Bananas


1 slice whole wheat bread, toasted (I use the Sara Lee 45 calorie variety)
1/2 tablespoon nutella
1/2 of a small banana


My only real commentary is that I highly suggest measuring the nutella. Two tablespoons of that stuff is 200 calories and 11 grams of fat! But really, 1/2 of a tablespoon is plenty (especially if you have smaller bread slices). This is a nice little snack if you are in the mood for something sugary, filling and not too terribly bad for you.

Kashi Party Cracker with Cucumber, Tzatziki and Smoked Salmon


1 tbsp. tzatziki (or cream cheese)
1 slice cucumber
1 small strip of smoked salmon
fresh cracked pepper, to taste

These crackers are awesome. They are so flavorful and you can eat four for 130 calories, but I usually just have two with some cheese or hummus.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Simple Red Beans and Rice with Elk Sausage

Whether it's gooey mac and cheese, a big bowl of chili, or a nice steamy bowl of chicken noodle soup, everyone has a few comfort foods that they always turn to. With law school exams looming (my first is a week from today) I was in need of a good dinner after spending the afternoon in the library outlining. My aunt gave me a few elk sausages awhile back and I've been trying to figure out something special to do with them because, well, when is the next time I'll have something that unique in my freezer? After some thought I settled on red beans and rice. Spicy cajun food always makes for a nice, comforting meal. I looked over a few traditional recipes, but they all were a bit more time consuming than my attention span was going to allow. I'm sure plenty of people wouldn't necessarily consider this recipe authentic, but the final product was hearty, earthy and just what I needed.

Most red beans and rice recipes call for andouille sausage, which you should be able to find at any grocery store. I've made this with spicy turkey sausage before, which is a great alternative. It's so much less fatty than pork sausage, and honestly, I don't think there is a huge difference in the taste. Omit the sausage and add more veggies like green bell pepper and tomato for a vegetarian option. This is really an easy recipe that you can change to suit your tastes. I try to use brown rice more often than white, but I was in a comfort food, white rice kind of mood last night.

Red Beans and Rice


1 lb. sausage of your choice (smoked sausage will cut down on your prep time since you just need to heat it up)

1 15 oz. can red beans, drained and rinsed

1 small yellow onion, diced

2-3 stalks of celery

A few tablespoons of olive oil (I try to use only as much as I need to cut down on calories)

1.5 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 cup uncooked rice

4 cloves garlic, minced (I love garlic, use less if you don’t!)

Cajun seasoning, to taste

Sriracha, to taste

Salt, to taste

Fresh cracked pepper, to taste


1. Bring 1 cup chicken stock and 1 cup water to a boil in a sauce pan. Add rice and cook based on package directions (if you're using using minute rice do this step later).

2. Brown sausage with a bit of oil in a deep pan until warm and browned. Leave residue in the pan for cooking vegetables. Remove and slice at an angle.

3. Add enough oil to saute vegetables and turn heat to medium-high. Add some salt, pepper and cajun seasoning to taste (I use Weber N'Orleans Cajun). Saute until onions begin to caramelize and celery softens, around six minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic, it will get bitter tasting if you do.

4. When vegetables are mostly cooked add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chicken stock and beans and scrape any burnt bits off your pan. For extra heat I added some Sriracha. Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for 10-15 minutes until beans are cooked through and creamy.

5. Serve over rice.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Poached Eggs for Dinner? I think yes.

I'll start with a disclaimer: I have never poached an egg before tonight. I've never even eaten a poached egg. But I've been meaning to for awhile, especially after I watched "Julie and Julia." So I'm not going to claim to be an expert egg poacher (but that probably goes without saying when you look at my picture). But what I do know is that I love a nice runny egg yolk, and on this front the poached egg does not disappoint. Poached eggs are similar to hard boiled eggs in terms of how the egg whites taste. Unfortunately my first one was the only one that looked right. Even so, they tasted great. I used this Gordon Ramsey video as a guide:

I made sure to let the water get to a rolling boil. The eggs cooked very quickly and I followed the advice to transfer the eggs into cold water.

Eggs are a great option to use instead of meat. They are fairly low-calorie and high protein, so they make for a filling meal unless you have cholesterol issues. Otherwise, a poached egg on top of asparagus or spinach makes for a simple, healthy meal.

Warm Wilted Spinach Salad


1 cup chopped red onions
3 cloves minced garlic
1 pkg. fresh mushrooms
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon, to taste
1/4 cup chicken stock
1 9 oz. bag fresh spinach
1/2 cup feta
1/4 cup pecans
short drizzle of olive oil
sea salt, to taste
fresh cracked pepper, to taste


Heat a short drizzle worth of olive oil in a deep pan and add the red onion and a bit of salt and pepper. Saute the onion for a few minutes until caramelized and then deglaze the pan with chicken stock. White wine would also work. Add garlic and mushrooms. Continue to cook the onions, garlic and mushrooms over medium high heat until the mushrooms are cooked through. Reduce heat to medium and add the spinach, lemon juice salt and pepper and stir until spinach has wilted. Top with poached eggs, feta and pecans. I added the feta and pecans after I took the picture, but the flavors all went together very nicely.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Guacamole Salad

To me, avocados are one of the prettiest pieces of produce that nature has to offer. The colors are so bold, they look so nice sliced up and they taste amazing. Unfortunately, I didn't come up with the amazing dish on my own. I've adapted it from my favorite Food Network personality, Ina Garten. Her original recipe can be found here. I like to eat this plain, but it's great on chips too. If you're craving mexican food but don't want something greasy, this is a light, fresh tasting meal in itself that will likely curb your cravings.

This is great with grilled chicken, tortilla soup or tacos. The beans make it filling enough to be a main course in and of itself. If you love avocados and light, fresh meals you'll love this.

Guacamole Salad


1 large tomato
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 of a red onion, diced
2 Hass avocados, diced
2 minced jalapenos, seeded
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp. lime zest
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed (I prefer using a press for this)
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste


Mix beans, tomatoes, onion and jalapenos together. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over the beans and veggies and stir to incorporate. Right before serving, slice the avocado and lightly salt before folding into the mixture.

The lime juice will prevent the avocados from oxidizing to quickly. I usually have some leftovers of this so I cut up one avocado the night I make it and a second one when I'm eating the leftovers. The flavor is even better after everything has been sitting in the fridge for a day or so. This is great over scrambled eggs, as a dip or by itself.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mediterranean Chicken Meatballs with Tzatziki

I bought some ground chicken on sale a few months ago, put it in the freezer and have been trying to decide what to do with it since. I've seen a lot of great recipes for gyros with lamb meatballs and decided to do it with chicken. I've never made any sort of meatball, but these turned out to be amazing. The hot, crispy meatballs went well with the light and fresh tzatziki.

I was concerned about the chicken being bland, so I studded the
meatballs with feta and fresh mint.

The meatballs got nice and golden and the feta was perfectly melted
after about 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

I love Greek yogurt, and fresh tzatziki is quite simple.

The whole wheat pita, meatballs, tzatziki, tomatoes and red onions had the right balance of light and bold flavors.



6 oz. plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup grated, peeled, seeded cucumber
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
splash of white wine
salt, to taste
fresh pepper, to taste


After grating the cucumber, place it in a paper towel and squeeze out excess moisture. The white wine isn't necessary but adds a nice tangy quality. After mixing, allow tzatziki to sit in the fridge for at least an hour for best flavor.


The yogurt needs to be plain Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is the same as regular yogurt, but it has been strained. The result: a very thick, creamy, high-protein concoction. I find mine in the organic section of the grocery store, but your mileage may vary.

Chicken Meatballs


1 lb. ground chicken
2/3 cup italian bread crumbs
4 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 tbsps. olive oil
1 egg, beaten
sea salt, to taste
fresh pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. herbes de provence
1 tbsp. fresh chopped mint
2 Tbsps. feta


Preheat oven to 350°. Mix all ingredients together with hands until homogenous. Shape mixture into balls (about the size of golf balls). Push a bit of feta into the center and around the edges of each meatball. Place the balls into the fridge for at least 30 minutes so they can firm up. Place balls a few inches apart on a greased cookie sheet and cook for around 30 minutes when meatballs are cooked through and golden on the outside.

Clever Cake

I probably wouldn't buy this, but I definitely had to do a double-take when I was looking at Food Network magazine this evening. It's a sandwich bread shaped cake pan and would probably be a great addition to the kitchen of someone with more cake decorating talent than I have. This, along with many other unique items, can be found at

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread with Blueberries and Pecans

I must admit, I'm not always the best baker. However, between my recent decision to follow recipes more often and a move from high-altitude Colorado to low-altitude Florida (it really does make a huge difference in how the final product looks!) I've been trying to experiment more often. I would like to think that this bread is a fifty-fifty mix between healthy and junky. I made a few changes but adapted the recipe from here.

The pecans add a nice crunch and compliment the whole wheat flour. I don't know if it makes much of a difference, but I added a couple tablespoons of vital wheat gluten. It makes a big difference when I bake yeast breads and yields less crumbly loaves.

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup finely shredded zucchini
1/4 cup pecan halves
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking power
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinammon
1 cup fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan.
2. Beat together eggs, oil, vanilla and the sugars. Next, stir in the zucchini. In a separate bowl, beat the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, vital wheat gluten and cinnamon until combined. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet then fold in the blueberries and pecans with a spatula.
3. Bake 55-65 minutes. Check for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center, which will come out clean when the bread is done. Cool in pan for 20 minutes then transfer to wire racks.

About "Spare Thyme"

Over the last few months I have grown obsessed with reading food blogs, most of which I find through I love to cook and I've always enjoyed watching food shows, but I have come across so many new and interesting things through individuals personal food blogs than other sources have provided me. So, I've decided to embark on a blogging journey of my own after acting as an enthusiastic observer for some time now.

"Spare Thyme" seemed like an appropriate name for multiple reasons - first, because I love puns and second because I am a law student whose time isn't always well apportioned, but I'm in the kitchen when the opportunity presents itself. Law school makes me miss writing creatively, but hopefully this will be enjoyable for myself and a few readers along the way.

I've been interested in cooking and baking since I was very young and I have a habit of improvising a lot in the kitchen. Until recently I almost never followed recipes, but I've realized that my skills will only improve so much without learning some fundamentals. I try to make things that are healthy, but keep in mind the adage: "Everything in moderation, including moderation."