Roasted Veggie Quesadillas with Pesto and Goat Cheese + a Twist to My Favorite Barley Risotto

As I have been prepping for my first day back to work tomorrow I have tried to get myself back in the mindset of thinking through all our meals on Sundays. I forget how this can be a lot of work up front but how much easier it is as the week goes on and you have things prepped and ready for the meal ahead of time. I wanted to share two meals I made this week that were delicious. If you are able to roast the vegetables ahead of time then the actual prep of these delicious meals is simple. First up was a variation of my favorite barley risotto. Instead of mushrooms and sausage this time I did butternut squash, kale and turkey sausage (this would be just as good without the meat as well). I love anything with roasted vegetables and have always loved roasted vegetable sandwiches so decided to try it in quesadilla format.  I added pesto and goat cheese to make it complete.

As I said I highly recommend roasting the vegetables for both of these recipes at the same time.  Then when it comes time to make the meals it’s fast. Plus, after the vegetables are roasted the risotto only uses one pot (MY FAVORITE) and all I had to do to make the quesadillas the next night was assemble and bake. After roasting store the squash separate from the other vegetables (the mushrooms, zucchini, onions and red peppers can go in the same container). Below is one of the two pans of veggies I did (the other had the onion, red pepper and second zucchini).

IMG_3235

Roasted Vegetable Quesadillas with Pesto and Goat Cheese

Serves 4IMG_3264

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 zucchini sliced the long way
  • 2 red bell peppers, sliced into 1 inch long chunks
  • 3 portabella mushrooms, julienned
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 ounces of goat cheese
  • 1 cup pesto
  • 8 flour tortillas

Directions

  1. This step can be done in advance. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray then lay vegetables on top and drizzle olive oil over them. Roast at 400 for 40 minutes or until tender. If making the quesadillas later in the week store the vegetables in a sealed container in the fridge overnight.
  2. When it’s time to eat. Set oven to 350
  3. Assemble quesadillas by laying four tortillas down and spreading the vegetables evenly over them. Next, break off small chunks of goat cheese and spread on top of the vegetables. On the other 4 tortillas spread 1/4 cup of pesto evenly to the edges. Flip this quesadilla on top of the other tortilla.
  4. Lay all four assembled quesadillas on a baking sheet and bake for 5-10 minutes (until tortilla is slightly browned), flip and bake 5-10 min on the other side.
  5. Serve warm

Butternut Squash, Kale, Turkey Sausage Barley Risotto

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 pound of bulk turkey sausage (or two sausages with the casein removed)
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of hull-less or pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 bunch of kale, stems removed and ripped to small pieces (I used a 5 ounce bag of kale)
  • 1 Butternut squash peeled and diced (I bought a 20 ounce container which is ~3 cups)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. This step can be done a day ahead if desired. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray then place the diced squash on the pan and drizzle with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Roast the butternut squash at 400 for 40 minutes.
  2. Heat dutch oven (or a large pot) to medium high and add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Saute the onion and  sausage until sausage is cooked through.
  3. Add chicken broth and barley to the pot, bring to a boil then cover and reduce to a simmer for ~40 minutes until barley is tender and the liquid is absorbed
  4. When 10 minutes remain (after barley has been on for 30 minutes) add the kale and roasted butternut squash.
  5. Remove from heat. Add the Parmesan cheese.
  6. Add salt and pepper as desired and serve

Homemade Ramen

When we were kids my brother and I used to love packaged Ramen noodles. It was often our after school snack when my mom was still at work. I still find myself craving these delicious things and was so happy when we had a Ramen restaurant nearby. Last year the restaurant moved and I was determined to create this dish at home. Since then we’ve remade it multiple times and even the kids love it. This is a vegetarian version of a ramen recipe that is super simple, quick and flavorful. A great way to get the classic ramen taste with the addition of fiber and nutrient rich vegetables. This recipe can be made with any vegetable your heart desires. I listed below how I usually prep mine as I think chives and mushrooms should be in every ramen dish and I always have broccoli on hand. Carrots and green onions are also good additions.  The beauty is once you have the broth base and noodles you can vary it up. I usually make it vegetarian but also have added meat if I have leftovers or a soft cooked egg for additional protein. The picture shows a time I made it this summer and sliced up leftover brats to add to the top (pork shoulder would be great too). All this Ramen talk and now I am going to the store to get Chinese noodles so we can have this for dinner tonight! Buon Appetito

Click here to see how long to boil eggs for different consistencies of yolk if you want to add an egg to the top. If doing that start the eggs when you begin the recipe.

Serves: 4-6

 Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil, or olive oil
  • ¼ c. minced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 2 cups mushrooms, chopped
  • 1.5-2 cups broccoli, chopped
  • 8 cups vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
  • 2 cups water
  • 12 oz Chinese Noodles (some say Ramen noodles on the package, some say udon or soba) or Rice Noodles (gluten free option). I’ve used both with good results
  • 4 tsp ground celery seed
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped chives
  • Optional toppings
    • sliced green onion
    • chopped basil
    • soy sauce
    • Hot spices: red pepper flakes, hot sauce, etc
    • soft cooked eggs sliced in half
    • cooked meat (leftover pulled pork or sausage)

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, add oil and heat up. Then add minced onion, garlic, ginger and vegetables (carrots, mushrooms and broccoli or any variation of vegetables you want added).
  2. Continually toss and cook for 3-5 minutes on medium heat.
  3. Next add in broth and water.
  4. Add Chinese noodles and celery seed. Boil for amount of time listed on Chinese noodle direction for noodles to be done.
  5. Remove from heat and top with chives and any additional optional toppings you want.

 

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Pancakes

I find it ironic that within this big world wide web I searched how to make Sweet Potato Oatmeal pancakes on pinterest and got linked to a blog that was inspired by the same restaurant as I was. The restaurant that impressed me (and them) with these delicious pancakes was Short Stack Eatery in Madison. After eating my sweet potato oatmeal pancakes I couldn’t wait to make them for the kids (and who am I kidding for myself). Just as anticipated all the kids loved them. My four year old ate 3, the two year old 2 and the baby 1 and they have now been added into our breakfast for dinner rotation. We served them with fresh cut up fruit on the side and milk.

Since sweet potatoes are a fall food staple it’s the perfect time to try these out. You will need 1-2 sweet potatoes from your potato sack + some staple fall spices (nutmeg and cinnamon). I recommend cooking the sweet potatoes ahead of time so they are cooled and easier to peel and mash when you are ready to make the batter. Also, they freeze well so consider doubling it and freezing them to microwave later. I do this for as one of my quick healthy options for our 8 month old. My last editors note. The restaurant served them with mascarpone cream, which I listed the ingredients and directions for below but haven’t done so myself as I wasn’t eating dairy. Although, now that I can have dairy again I can’t wait to try it.

img_2779

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Pancakes

Serves: 4-6

Recipe adapted from whatimadetoday blog

Ingredients for pancakes:

  • 3/4 cup sweet potatoes, peeled and mashed (1-2 sweet potatoes)
  • 1 cup of all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup oatmeal
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2-4 Tbsp sugar (some people don’t use any sugar but some like a little. I recommend 2 Tbsp)
  • 1 cup milk (skim, 1%, 2% or whole work)
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, plain
  • 2 Tbsp butter, melted + butter for spreading on pancakes after
  • 2 eggs (1 whole egg, 1 egg white only)
  • Syrup for serving

Optional: Serve with mascarpone cream (the restaurant did this as well as the blogger who posted the recipe) and fresh fruit (raspberries, strawberries, peaches or blueberries).

Ingredients for mascarpone cream topping:

  • 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp powdered sugar
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup mascarpone cheese

Directions for pancakes:

  1. Cook Sweet Potatoes. I usually do mine in the microwave. Prick the potatoes a few times with a fork, place on a plate and microwave on high 8-10 minutes or until tender when fork is inserted. Take out and let cool (if making the pancakes later then put in a covered container in the fridge.
  2. When ready to make the pancakes peel the cooled off sweet potatoes and mash.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together all the dry ingredients from flour through sugar.
  4. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the milk, yogurt, melted butter, egg and egg white.
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in mashed sweet potatoes and mix until there are no clumps.
  6. Heat a griddle or fry pan over medium heat and spray with PAM or add butter to pan. Pour ~1/4 cup of batter for each pancake and cook for 1.5-2 minutes, flip and repeat.

Directions for mascarpone cream:

  1. If making the mascarpone cream sauce, whisk the whipping cream in blender until it firm peaks form. Add sugar and vanilla extract and mix until combined.
  2. Scrape down sides and add mascarpone cheese and mix on low until combined. Serve on top of pancakes

Squash “Lasagna” Bake

My dinner tonight was a last minute meal inspired by our morning trip to the Shorewood Farmers Market. I ran into my friend Rachel who told me about this delicious squash lasagna she made earlier in the week. After my mouth was watering my husband set out to find some squash at the market and I made my grocery list of other things we’d need. My friend, like me, often gets inspiration from a recipe then whips it up in her own way based on what she has and how she likes. I got some inspiration from pinterest variations of this but ended up doing my own simpler thing so I thought I’d write it down so I could make it again. I also had to share this as I can’t wait to eat the leftovers tomorrow. Another friend of mine prepped a similar bake tonight for a dinner early this week which made me realize it’s a great dish to pre-prepare and pop in after work on a crisp fall day.

This recipe is gluten free and could also be made vegetarian by replacing the sausage with diced eggplant (if using eggplant make sure to let it simmer with the onions and sauce the whole time the squash cooks to ensure it’s tenderness)

Squash “Lasagna” Bake

serves: 6-8

Ingredients:

  • Butternut or Summer Squash (one large or two small)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 pound sausage, Italian or turkey (I buy in bulk if not bulk remove casein) –> 1 1/2 cups eggplant if making vegetarian
  • 2 Tbsp Olive oil, separated
  • 1/2 jar of classic marinara
  • 8 ounces of ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, shredded and separated
  • 1 tsp dried parsley or 1 Tbsp fresh
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds with a spoon. Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil onto squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in oven to roast for 50-60 minutes
  2. In the meantime heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add onion and let cook 3-5 minutes then add the sausage, breaking up pieces and cook until the meat is brown and cooked through. Turn heat to low and add 1/2 container of marinara sauce, let simmer until squash is done.
  3. Mix together the ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese and parsley and set aside.
  4. Once the squash is done let it cool 10 minutes. Keep the oven on. Then using a fork scoop out the inside of the squash into a greased 8×8 casserole dish. It will come out looking like spaghetti noodles. I personally mashed mine a little with a fork in the dish. Once the squash is set layer it with the meat sauce and then spread the ricotto cheese mixture on top.
  5. Place the dish back in the oven for 25-30 minutes until the sides bubble a little. If you are making the dish ahead then skip this part until you are ready to eat and place in the refrigerator. I would suggest cooking the day after it’s prepped.

Sriracha-Lime Corn Salad

First, let me address the white elephant in the room. Where have I been? Or better yet, where have the blog posts gone? Well, having three kids in 3.5 years has really taken away from extracurricular activities. Have I stopped cooking? No. Is nutrition or healthy eating less important? No. Actually, my husband and I are more healthy now after I had him read The Blue Zones by Dan Buettner (more on that in a future blog). Most importantly I’ve thought of my blog constantly when I am making recipes worth sharing. That’s why I’m back. I have a list of recipes I’m dying to share but after shopping for them, cooking them, cleaning it up and putting the kids to bed I find myself exhausted and in bed.  That’s about to change. My growler of cold press coffee and school start for the girls have me ready to post!

First, before corn season is over I want to share a delicious end of summer recipe that you HAVE TO TRY. It would pair perfect with grilled food, fish or even as a side to a Mexican food night. My mom found this delicious recipe in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel this month (adapted from food52.com). It has citrus, crunch, cheese and spice and doesn’t take long to make. YUM YUM YUM!

Sriracha-Lime Corn Salad

Serves: 6

Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 ears of corn, cooked and sliced off cobs
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 3 Tbsp sriracha
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 ounces feta or Cotija cheese, crumbled
  • 3 Tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high heat and saute corn kernels until slightly browned (6-8 minutes).
  2. Add peppers and cook 2-3 minutes until barely softened.
  3. Remove from heat and add parsley, cheese and lime juice. Mix to combine
  4. Season with salt and peppers
  5. Add Sriracha and stir to coat (the recipe says to do this in the pan with the peppers and corn but we did it at the end so we could take some out for the kids before we made it spicy. Either way works).

Curried Chicken with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives

This Christmas we had a big group of family come into town to celebrate. Instead of doing gifts between individuals we did an adult gift exchange. Each person had to buy a gift for $20-40 that the majority would like and then we played the dice game to choose and steal gifts. Lucky for me, I won an awesome new cookbook and sheet pan (my other one is very very “seasoned”). The cookbook is called Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert and so far the two recipes I’ve made have been easy, tasty and not too much prep or dishes to prepare! I can’t wait to try more recipes in it as we have time!

One of the many great things about having family come to town is the extra hands to hold baby Miles usually allows me to cook a few nights.  I have found out quickly in Miles’ first 4 week of life that when it’s just me and the kids around to prep dinner (kids being: 3.5, 2 and 1 month) we survive on quick dinners not new recipes.

This past month we have had a lot of company to help us as we get used to being a family of 5. Ryan’s grandmother, Audrey, was our most recent visitor and the giver of my great cookbook. What better time to try our first recipe out. We decided on a curried chicken dish with an interesting pairing of cauliflower, apricots and olives. It was DELICIOUS. A hint of sweetness from the apricots and tartness from the olives paired great with the curry flavors. If you like curry, you’ll love it. We served it over brown rice.

Curried Chicken with Cauliflower, Apricots and Olives

Recipe from: Sheet Pan Suppers by Molly Gilbert

Ingredients

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 2 pounds)
  • 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3/4 cup chopped dried apricots (soaked in hot water for 5 minutes and drained)
  • 1 cup pitted green olives, halved
  • 2 cups brown rice, uncooked (or quinoa as a gluten free option)

Directions

  1. Combine the chicken thighs with 2 Tbsp of the olive oil, 2 tsp of hte curry powder, the cyaenne, 1/2 tsp of the paprika, the cinnamon, vinegar and 1/2 tsp of the stalt in a large zip-top bag. Seal the bag and make sure chicken is covered in marinade. Let the chicken marinate in the fridge for at least 45 minutes and up to overnight (we did 45 minutes)
  2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425 and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  3. Place the cauliflower on the sheet pan. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp olive oil, 2 tsp curry powder, 1/2 tsp paprika and 1/2 tsp salt and toss to coat. Scatter the apricots and olives over the cauliflower, and toss to combine. Spread into a single layer.
  4. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade and place them atop the cauliflower, spacing them evenly apart. Discard the bag. Roast, rotating the pan halfway through, until the cauliflower is slightly charred and the chicken is cooked through, about 45 minutes (a thermometer into the meat should read 165).
  5. Start the whole grain rice when you put the meat into the oven as it will takes ~40 minutes. Cook according to brown rice packaging. If making quinoa you can do it now or once the chicken has been in for 20 minutes as it won’t take as long. I recommend preparing 2 cups (before cooked)

FullSizeRender (7)

Soft Baked Pretzels

My daughter asked me this weekend if we could have soft pretzels like we had on the  ferry from Wisconsin to Michigan last summer. I love that, like me, the things she remembers about trips include the food she ate! Ironically, I looked at my kids food ideas  board on pinterest and saw that I had already pinned a soft pretzel recipe. Milwaukee has a plethora of German brew pubs, which means tons of homemade soft pretzels, and a new family favorite appetizer.

Monday was my first afternoon alone with all three kiddos. Miles was napping in the swing and the girls were playing great together downstairs so I figured I’d bake. Why not?

While the pretzels were baking I made a honey mustard dip and I put some Tostados queso dip in a second bowl as our two dipping sauces (Yes…dietitians have processed food in their houses too. Remember -MODERATION).

I felt so accomplished afterwards. A fun, delicious homemade dinner on the table that everyone loved. Ryan and I had ours with an Italian sausage and salad on the side to round out the meal and the kids had deli meat and fruit with theirs.

One quick disclaimer. This is a very easy recipe but beware that it is a little time consuming as you have to make the dough, knead the dough (I did this in my Kitchen Aid mixer), let the dough rise for 15 minutes, form pretzels, let the pretzels sit in baking soda bath for 2 minute and then bake them for 8 minutes. I did 2-3 pretzels in the baking soda bath at a time to speed things up. I’d assume ~45 minutes total before they are ready to eat but I promise it is worth it.

Soft Baked PretzelsFullSizeRender (5)

Source: Sprinkle Some Sugar Blog

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (1 standard packet)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (3/4 cup more if needed)
  • Baking soda Bath = 2 cups of water and 4 Tbsp baking soda
  • 6 Tbsp melted butter and 1 Tbsp coarse salt for sprinkling on top post baking (I used 4 Tbsp butter and pinched salt on but did not measure)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 475 and line baking sheet with parchment paper or a non stick silicone baking sheet mat

  1. Combine yeast and warm water and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with a hook or in a bowl if you aren’t using a mixer. Let sit until your yeast is “frosty” or looks like it’s bubbling.
  2. Add salt and melted butter to yeast mixture
  3. Add flour one cup at a time until dough forms and is no longer sticky. You may need more or less based on temperatures where you live. I found that I actually had to add 3 tsp of water (one at a time) to this to make it sticky.
  4. Once dough Knead dough in mixer or by hand for 5 minutes until its smooth.
  5. Form dough into and let sit in a bowl for 15 minutes (I covered my bowl with a towel as i do that with other dough I make)
  6. While dough rises prepare baking soda bath. Boil 2 cups of water with 4 Tbsp baking soda. Stir and heat until dissolved. Remove from heat and pour into a 8×8 or 9×9 pan and let cool to be lukewarm temperatures.
  7. Take the dough out of the bowl and flatten slightly to cut into 8 sections like a pizza. Roll each section out to be ~15-20 inches long. Form the rope into a pretzel
  8. Once 2-3 are made place them in the baking soda bath and leave for 2 minutes (make the rest of the pretzels while they soak). If they are not fully covered spoon liquid mixture on to the top.
  9. Remove from baking soda bath and place on baking sheet. Reform if needed and sprinkle with salt
  10. Bake for 8-9 minutes until golden brown
  11. Brush with melted butter after taking out of the oven and serve HOT with your favorite dipping sauce

Honey Mustard Dipping SauceFullSizeRender

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice

Mix together and refrigerate

Chicken Tortilla Soup and Turkey Lasagna

When you pass your 40 week gestation date and you feel comfortable with baby happily hanging out you realize it’s time to cook. We hit single digits for the first time all winter and we didn’t have plans (as we could have been at the hospital) so Ryan and I took our stab at getting ahead for dinners. Yesterday he made our favorite turkey lasagna recipe and today we made chicken tortilla soup to freeze and enjoy post baby T3. Unlike a lot of chicken tortilla soups this one has noodles in it which I thought the kids would love. Two recipes down, one Asian Noodle dish prepped and ready for dinner tonight.

Looking for an easy, tasty meal for these cold days? Try one of these recipes. The lasagna is my favorite as it’s easy but still has homemade sauce and great flavor. As for the soup, one spoon in to taste test and it’s yummy!

Turkey Lasagna-  (Ina Garten) Barefoot Contessa

Chicken Tortilla Soup (with noodles) from damndelicious.net

Tortellini and Sausage Soup

Every September I get anxious to start making soup and fall foods. I love the change of season and all the warm delicious meals. All it takes is the humidity to leave and my kitchen is in soup mode. It’s currently 5:45pm and still 70 degrees out but the nice lake breeze and windows open made it perfect for soup.

My amazing girlfriend and past roomie Claire gave me this recipe years ago and it never gets old. I think I’ve shared it 20 times which means it’s time for it to get on my blog. It’s easy, quick and delicious. Somewhat like a pasta fagioli soup but even better. The kids, Ryan and I all love it! Without further ado- here is the recipe!

Note: you can easily substitute gluten free noodles to make it gluten free OR use meat substitutes or skip the sausage for a vegetarian fair. Either would easily work.

Tortellini and Sausage Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 lb bulk Italian Sausage (I use links- 3 turkey Italian sausage, 3 mild Italian and took casings off)
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 chicken broth (or 3 cups of water + 2 tsp chicken bouillion)
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 sliced carrots
  • 1 zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 1 27 oz can Tomato soup
  • 1 can Cannellini beans (white beans) (with liquid)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (with liquid)
  • 9 oz cheese tortellini
  • ¼ c red wine
  • Few tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
  • Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on top

 Directions

  1. Add 1-2 Tbsp olive oil to pan and cook sausage and onion over medium heat, drain thoroughly.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients, except parmesan cheese.
  3. Heat to boiling, reduce heat, cover and simmer 20 minutes.
  4. Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.

Individualized Egg Tarts

My mother in law made a delicious herbed tomato and roasted garlic tart from Smitten Kitchen when she was in town this fall so we had extra puff pastry sheets in our freezer. I spotted them on the perfect day when the kids were happily playing together by themselves in the tent where I could see them. This meant I had time to think about a way to use them that we would all enjoy for lunch. Our littlest, Luisa, loves eggs so the breakfast puff pastry concept was launched. The nice thing about these little egg tarts is you can make them anyway you want. We had breakfast sausage and spinach around to add but you could do any cooked or roasted vegetable with or without a meat (see the bottom of this post for my combination ideas). I also was able to take mine out earlier so my egg was over medium while Elena and Luisa’s yolks were cracked and fully cooked. Individualized shared meal ideas are some of my favorite go-to meals mostly when they are quick like this was. They got a big stamp of approval from Luisa who ate hers in record time.  I doctored mine up with Trader Joe’s Sambal Matah Indonesian salsa for added flavor and spice. Another salsa that would be good to top them with is Frotera’s Chipotle Salsa made with roasted tomatillo and garlic for a smoky fresh spice flavor (my new favorite obsession). These were so good and fun for the kids that I’ll be making different variations for Luisa’s first birthday dinner and serving them with a side of fresh fruit, salad and cake.

Individualized Egg Tarts

Must Have Ingredients

  • Frozen Puff Pastry Sheets (I used Peppridge Farms puff pastry sheets) –I cut one sheet into 4 egg tarts so the full box should make 8
  • 8 eggs

Optional Toppings

  • ~1 cup spinach, chopped
  • Cooked veggies (peppers, onions, musrhooms zucchini or broccoli all come to mind as variations to try)
  • Breakfast meat (Canadian bacon, ham, prosciutto, cooked breakfast sausage or bacon), chopped
  • Trader Joe’s Sambal Matah Indonesian salsa or Frotera’s Chipotle Salsa or other salsa or hot sauce to top
  • Cheese (feta, goat or manchego would be my choices)

Directions

  1. Thaw the pastry sheet at room temperature until its easy to handle (20-40 minutes)IMG_1971
  2. Unfold the pastry sheets on a lightly floured surface and cut them into four pieces.
  3. Bend the sides of the puff pastry pieces up to make a shell so the egg doesn’t spill out
  4. Scramble an egg and put it in the pastry shell or crack it into the shell if you want it sunny side up
  5. Top with any meat, vegetables or cheese you desire
  6. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-20 minutes until the pastry sheet is lightly golden and the egg FullSizeRenderis cooked to your desired consistency
  7. Plate and top with salsa or serve plain

Egg Tart Combination Ideas: 

  • ham, broccoli and cheddar cheese
  • prosicutto, arugula and manchego cheese
  • bell pepper, spinach and goat cheeseFullSizeRender (1)
  • mushroom, parmesan and sausage
  • tomato, basil and bacon

It Starts with the Crust

Our family loves eating pizza and we usually make it weekly. With three out of four of us not being able to eat cheese we’ve been making our pizzas homemade for years. The reason I love making pizza from scratch is you can customize it for your family.  Our daughter loves pepperoni so we top hers with some of that and mushrooms, olives, peppers or spinach. What an easy way to get whole grains, vegetables and protein into one meal. Plus you can serve it with a side of cooked veggies or cut up fruit.

My critique of a good pizza often comes back to how good the crust was. The thinner and crispier the better and nothing is better to me than Wells Brothers Pizza in my hometown (Racine, Wisconsin). The crust is thin, crispy and delicious.  Having homemade pizza with the perfect crust can be hard to come by. I have tried a lot of brands of pizza dough on the market and have found a few new obsessions worth sharing. One pre-made crust, one dough you roll at home and two recipes to start from scratch. I’ve found now that I’m at home with the kids I love making dough from scratch. The kneading is rather therapeutic mostly on days when our 2 1/2 year old is extra feisty and the rolling and assembly is a great way to get kids in the kitchen cooking with you. Plus, the end results are a win for everyone. Yum, yum, yum.

My Favorite pre-made crust: Angelic Bakehouse Flatzza-Sprouted Whole Grain Pizza Crust

These crusts are made in Cudahy, Wisconsin by Angelic Bakehouse and can be found at select Whole Foods Regions and Sprouts Farmers Markets (located in 10 states). I pick them up at the Milwaukee Whole Foods but good news for my Minneapolis friends and other American readers. You can buy them on Angelic Bakehouse’s website. I promise you will not be disappointed. They also have a Flatzza wrap that I imagine is just as delightful that I will have to check out next time I’m at Whole FoodsFlatzza Crust

  • Why I love them: They are super thin crust, come in a two pack and are made from sprouted whole grains which are higher in protein, have a lower gylcemic index and are said to be easier to digest.
  • Nutrition: 110 calories, 5g protein and 3g Fiber in 1/4 of the crust
  • Check out all the types of grains on their ingredient list: Whole sprouted grains of red wheat berries, quinoa, oat groats, rye berries, barley, amaranth, and millet, water, wheat flour, sunflower oil, vital wheat gluten, 100% domestic honey, oat fiber, cultured wheat, salt, molasses, yeast.

Favorite Pre-made Dough Choices-Whole Foods Pizza Counter or Trader Joe’s Ready to Bake Pizza Dough

  1. Whole Foods Pizza Counter
    1. Did you know you can go up to the Whole Foods Market pizza area and ask to buy some of the dough to take home? This was news to me but a great way to get a fresh homemade dough
    2. Why I love this product: Fresh choice that required no work
  2. Trader Joe’s Ready to Bake Pizza Doughpizza-dough
    1. This has always been a staple for us for grilled or baked pizzas. They have a regular, whole wheat and garlic & herb crust choice. Personally, I love the added flavors in the garlic & herb one for a classic pizza creation. The other two are great choices when it will be topped with lots of flavors.
    2. Why I love these: Whole wheat option if desired, cheap, easy to roll out and easy to find as Trader Joe’s have always been close to where I’ve lived

Favorite New Pizza Dough recipes from Seriously Delish Cookbook:

I received the Seriously Delish cookbook from Jessica Merchant’s How Sweet It Is blog for Christmas from one of my best friends. I love getting knew cookbooks and this one has been a big hit so far. Included in the book is the authors favorite pizza crust and a 100% whole wheat version of her favorite pizza crust that I have made with the help of my little sous chef and will definitely make again.

Pizza Crust

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 cups warm water
  • 3 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 tsp salt

Directions

  1. Combine water, yeast, honey and olive oil in a large bowl. Mix together with a spoon and let sit until foamy (~10-15 minutes). Add 2 1/2 cups of flour and the salt, and stir with a spoon until the dough comes together but is still sticky, Using your hands, form the dough into a ball and work the additional 1/2 cup flour (you don’t need to use all if it is not needed) into the dough, kneading it on a floured surface for a few minutes.
  2. Rub the same bowl with a few drops of olive oil and place the dough inside, turning it over to coat. Cover the bowl with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for ~1 1/2 hours.
  3. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and remove it from the bowl. Place on a floured counter and, if it is sticky, knead a few tablespoons of flour into it until it is silky smooth.

100% Whole Wheat Version

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/8 cups warm water
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 2/3 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, combine water, yeast, honey and olive oil. Mix with a spoon, then let sit until foamy, about 10-15 minutes. Add in 2 cups flour and salt, stirring with a spoon until the dough comes together but is still sticky. Using your hands, form the dough into a ball and work in the additional 2/3 cup flour, kneading it on a floured surface for a few minutes.
  2. Rub the same bowl with olive oil then place the dough inside, turning to coat. Cover with a towel and place in a warm place to rise for about 1-1 1/2 hours.
  3. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and remove it from the bowl. Place on a floured counter and, if it is sticky, knead a few tablespoons of flour into it until it i silky and smooth

 

 

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Spicy Sausage

When the temperature gets below 20 degrees all I want is some warm, tasty comfort food. What better way than with a warm risotto. I adapted this from a Weight Watchers barley risotto recipe to be less…well less weight watcher-sie and more me. This recipe is easy to make dairy free or half and half as I did to accommodate myself and my cheese eating husband and our fairy godmother (I know we have a fairy Godmother. It’s pretty cool). What I liked best about this recipe was unlike the constant stirring required in traditional risotto with arborio rice this barley one allowed it to simmer on its own without having to be mixed. This means I will now be eating rissoto 10 times more often as that was always my deterrent to cook it. I mean what mom with two kids has the ability to stand next to a pot and stir for 30-40 minutes!?!  One thing I will add is the spicy sausage gave it a kick so if you want to make it more kid friendly I’d recommend doing two regular sausage instead of one of each. Without further ado here is the most recent Teskey dinner hit!

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms and Spicy Sausage

yields ~6 cups of risotto

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • ~12 ounce of mushrooms, chopped (more or less is okay too- I used crimini but baby portabellas would work too)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 sausages (1 regular, 1 spicy)
  • 2 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of hull-less or pearl barley, rinsed
  • 1 tsp of fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp of dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil in medium dutch oven  or large pot
  2. Add onion and let sautee for 2-3 minutes
  3. Add mushrooms and garlic to the pot and cook 3-4 more minutes
  4. Remove casein from the sausages and add small pieces to the sauteing vegetables. Cook until the meat is cooked through and the onions and mushrooms are tender (~10 minutes)
  5. Pour in chicken broth and 1 cup of barley. Stir.
  6. Increase heat to have the broth boil then cover and reduce to a simmer for ~40 minutes until barley is tender and the liquid is absorbed
  7. Remove saucepan from heat. Add thyme and cheese. I removed my portion and didn’t add cheese then added the cheese to the pot for others. It was delicious even without the cheese!
  8. Add salt and pepper as desired and serve

Dairy Free Mac

I’m always trying to find creative dairy free recipes so our oldest daughter can enjoy some of our favorite dishes (she is very intolerant to dairy and I’m hoping she out grows it). Recently I made an awesome one that I will definitely make again (I can’t say that for many) and had to share. I first saw it when my friend Ashley posted it on Facebook from Bold Vegan’s blog. The title was  “extra Creamy Vegan Mac and Cheese (not some hippy dippy “cheesy”Mac and cheese).” This catchy title caught my attention as a I love cheese and am not a vegan. Plus, I’ve been wanting to try using nutritional yeast as people say its a great cheese alternative.

What is nutritional yeast?

nutr yeastNutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast sold in flakes or powder form for cooking. It’s a great source of B vitamins, folic acid, selenium , zinc and is a complete protein. If you are a vegan or vegetarian I recommend looking for one that is fortified with vitamin B12. Two tablespoons of nutritional yeast contain about 45 calorie and 8 grams of protein. The recipe below uses 1/2 cup which would be ~24 grams of protein from the yeast.

It produces a cheesy, nutty flavor that was great in our recipe. You can use a few tablespoons to add creaminess to sauces, soups or mashed potatoes (I plan to start doing this) or you can add in more for a cheesy texture.  I’ve also heard you can sprinkle it on popcorn for added flavor.  I found mine at whole foods in the bulk  section and would imagine most co-ops also sell it. For a little over 1/2 a cup it cost me $2.09 ($18.99/lb).

Without further explanation I will let you get to the recipe. Know that my husband, brother, mom  and I all liked it. It was creamy with a nice slight nutty flavor and an added bonus that there were vegetables blended in! We served ours with sesame green beans. I’ll include how I make those below as they are a family staple.

Dairy Free Macaroni and Cheese using Nutritional Yeast

Ingredients

  • 1russet potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 cup carrot, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 1/4 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup butter  (for vegan version use Earth Balance spread)
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (40g)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons canned coconut milk (full fat is recommended but I used Trader Joe’s Light Coconut milk)
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 1 box (8 oz) of macaroni noodles or elbows  (I probably used about 12 ounces of noodles from a 16 0z box–I didnt measure just poured)
  • Parsley for garnish

Directions

  1. Place potato, carrot and onion in a pan, cover with 2 cups of water and simmer for 20 minutes with the lid on.
  2. While the potato mixture is cooking start your water for the noodles and cook noodles according to the package.
  3. After 20 minutes, turn off heat in potato pan and add butter (or Earth Balance spread f making vegan), nutritional yeast, turmeric and salt. Stir to combine until melted (DO NOT discard the water, keep it in the pan)
  4. Pour mixture into a blender and blend for ~1 minute until creamy and smooth (NOTE: I used an immersion blender and did the blending in the pan it cooked in which was super easy). You may need to scrape the sides down from the blender a couple of times for everything to get incorporated.
  5. Add coconut milk to the blender and continue to blend until mixture is creamy throughout.
  6. Pour cheese sauce over cooked noodles.
  7. Garnish with parsley and serve.

veg mac             veg mac 2

Sesame Seed Green Beans

If you are crunched for time like me you can buy a  bag of green beans to steam in the microwave or if you have more time or fresh green beans sautee them in a pan with a small amount of olive oil. I like my green beans with a lot of crunch so I usually do the least amount of time recommended on the steam bag. Once they are cooked drizzle with sesame seed oil, salt, pepper and sesame seeds and serve.

My sous chefs

Asian Noodles- A New Teskey Favorite

Do you ever get stressed about magazines piling up month after month? Not real stresssed more just “anxious to read them and not see the next months edition show up before you have even lifted the cover of the previous months” stressed. Personally, I feel like this a lot lately as life is busy and those lay back read a magazine days have become far and few. I finally had a quiet sleeping baby and a chance to catch up on my celebrity gossip from US Weekly, learn from  my Parenting magazine, get recipe ideas from  Cooking Light and Todays Dietitian.  While skimming Todays Dietitian I came across this great and easy vegetarian dish in their Meatless Mondays article. So three weeks ago I cooked it up for my  in-laws (aka MN mom and dad) and meat loving husband and it got passing reviews from all three. To my surprise the second time I made it our almost 2 year old tolerated the mildly spiced sauce and loved it.  This has already become a dish in our frequent rotation and will be a great go to last minute week night meal for our house.

Here are a few reasons why I loved this dish:

1. It’s vegetarian! I love having meatless meals mixed between nights we have meat and try to do this at least once a week if not more times. It is a great way to add variety in protein choices and helps keep a good balance between macronutrients and as research has shown a diet that is majority plant based can help prevent diseases (now I love meat don’t get me wrong but I don’t think it should be the only protein people think about when planning meals)

2. The veggies and noodles cook in the same pot so you only end up with three dirty dishes (a bowl for the sauce, one pot and a strainer)…yes THREE dishes TOTAL! Amazing.

3. It was EXTREMELY easy and the sauce used things that I normally have in my pantry (if you don’t have almond butter you could definitely sub peanut butter).

4. My toddler liked it. Now not sure this is a great one to have as she likes most things (or per the norm for most toddlers – will like something one day then not eat much next time you make it then devour it at a future meal)

We ate it three weeks ago and I have made it by request two more times since then which rarely happens. Once for my dad and the next time for a group of 8 (we doubled the recipe that time). There is a little kick so if you are sensitive to spice you may want to add the chili-garlic sauce after but it truly was a mild kick and our daughter was fine with it.

Here is the recipe with my adjustments/comments italicized. I do mention below that I normally double the sauce (when I doubled the recipe I just did 1.5 times the sauce) so if you plan to do that you will need double the amount of soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar and chili-garlic sauce then what is listed below.

Asian Noodle Bowl with Spicy Almond Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients
1/4 cup sliced almonds
3/4 lb whole wheat spaghetti
1/2 head broccoli (about 3/4 lb), tops cut into flowerets, stems peeled and sliced thinly –I did more than 1/2 a head
2 cups (about 4 oz) snow peas, trimmed – I did a little more based on what I had
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 cup unsalted almond butter
1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 T fresh lime juice
2 T brown sugar
1 T chili-garlic sauce, such as Sriracha
1 scallion, green part only (about 3 T)

Directions
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

2. Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on medium heat, stirring frequently until they’re golden, about 3 minutes – IF YOU ARE IN A RUSH YOU COULD SKIP THIS STEP

3. Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Three minutes before the pasta is ready, add the broccoli to the pasta pot. One minute before it’s ready, add the snow peas and red peppers to the pot.

4. I DOUBLED THE QUANTITIES ABOVE WHEN I MADE THE SAUCE — While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. Place the almond butter, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, chili-garlic sauce, and 3 T of boiling water from the pasta pot into a large bowl, and whisk until smooth.

5. Drain the noodles and vegetables, return them to the pasta pot, add the sauce and toss to coat. Serve garnished with the toasted almonds and scallion greens (if the sauce turns out thick, as mine sometimes does, just add a little more water to the finished pot and mix in).

Nutrient Analysis per serving assuming no extra veggies and one batch of sauce
Calories: 410; Total fat: 16 g; Sat fat: 1.5 g; Cholesterol: 85 mg; Sodium: 460 mg; Total carbohydrates: 60 g; Dietary fiber: 17 g; Protein: 15 g

— Recipe Adapted from Ellie Krieger, RD, for the Almond Board of California.

Recipe found in Todays Dietitian Magazine 

Bulgur for breakfast

I love having a new twist on a favorite meal so I decided to try bulgur as the base for my hot cereal this week. The results were a very pleased momma. I loved the texture (closer to steel cut oats than oatmeal) and I love the addition of Greek yogurt and peanut butter. I chose to use vanilla Greek yogurt with walnuts + strawberries the first day and blueberries the second; point being any fruit would work here (I think tomorrow I’ll try a banana or peaches). I also like that it made enough for 3 days! Bulgur’s somewhat sweet taste was great for hot cereal and it only contains ~150 calories per cup. If you are feeling bored then give it a go you won’t be disappointed.  It will keep you stomach and taste buds satisfied.

Crunchy Peanut Butter Bulgur with Berries

Cooking Light – January/February 2014

 

 

Mango Spinach Banana Smoothie

It took falling in love with this smoothie to get me writing again. Not that this is the only delicious food I’ve eaten in the past 5 months but it a unique enough drink that I had to share. It all started when my coworker Angela had me taste a spinach mango smoothie she made with chia seeds. I had one sip and literally thought about it for the next two days until  I picked up frozen Mangoes to make it myself.

I spent some time researching mango spinach smoothie recipes and put one together based on what I like in smoothies (I prefer frozen fruit without any ice for a smoother consistency).

After much anticipation out came my new favorite smoothie that my daughter loves as well. Delicious and loaded with nutrition which makes me happy for myself and the baby I’m feeding in my womb. The chia seeds are a great touch to thicken the smoothie and the banana is a great subtle addition to the tropical mango flavor. If you don’t finish the whole smoothie you can put it in the fridge and the chia seeds will thicken it so you can still enjoy it the next day. That’s right it doesn’t turn to liquid mush like most leftover smoothies do.

Mango Spinach Banana Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup frozen mangoes
  • 1/2 cup packed spinach leaves (with stems if fine)
  • 1/2 fresh banana
  • 1/2-1 Tbsp chia seeds (I usually use 1 Tbsp)
  • 8-10 ounces of vanilla almond milk (soy or cows milk would work here too)

Directions

  • Place all the ingredients into a Magic Bullet Blender (or other blender) and emulsify until all the spinach and mangoes are pureed and ENJOY!

Family Meal: Biscuit Topped Chicken Potpie

We learned at 13 months old that our daughter has a milk/dairy intolerance. She can eat yogurt but anything in addition to that ends with many diaper changes. Since this realization I’m always on the look out for new dairy free recipes since my mind always comes back to lasagna, macaroni and grilled cheese. Thanks to my recent Cooking Light I was reminded of a childhood classics to re-enter into our dinner menu rotations: chicken potpie.

This one was a biscuit-topped chicken potpie. It was DELICIOUS. Everyone in the family was a fan even mom and dad. I used Pillsbury Biscuits vs making them homemade (as I listed below) and put the chicken in the crockpot the day before so all I had to do was prepare the filling the night of which made for an easy dinner. Kids or no kids its a classic flavor that I’d recommend.

Biscuit-Topped Chicken Potpie

Adapted from Cooking Light September 2013

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped onion (one medium onion)
  • 1 cup chopped carrot (~2-3 carrots)
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (~1-2 stalks)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups shredded cooked chicken breast (~3/4 pound chicken)
  • 1 cup frozen green peas, thawed
  • 1 (3/4-ounce) package fresh poultry blend herbs
  • One container of Biscuits (such as Pillsbury)

Directions

  1. This recipe calls for the chicken to be cooked when you prepare it. I usually put the chicken in my small crock pot with chicken broth in the morning or a day ahead. Another option would be to use a Rotisserie Chicken chopped up. Whatever you chose, make sure your chicken is cooked before moving on.
  2. Preheat oven to 425°.
  3. To prepare filling, heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds. Stir flour, salt, and pepper into vegetables; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in chicken and peas; simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove rosemary from herb package; reserve for another use. Strip leaves from stems of remaining herbs; chop leaves to measure 2 tablespoons. Stir herbs into filling. Pour filling in a 2-quart baking dish or cast-iron skillet coated with cooking spray.
  4. Arrange the raw biscuits on top of the filling; coat with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 35 minutes or until browned.

Watermelon Salad

It’s finally summer which means the season of fresh juicy fruit has arrived. I love having fresh berries, pineapple and melons around for snacking but recently I was introduced to a new salad that I can’t get enough of. After doing the MS 150 bike ride (where the weather kept us from the second half) my friends Claire & Erin hosted a BBQ for the riders. Of course the spread of food was delicious: orzo pasta salad, veggies with homemade dip, guacamole and chips, brats/burgers and best of all a watermelon salad.  YUMMY!

The crunch and chilly texture from the watermelon paired perfectly with the dryness of the feta cheese.  Topped off with a hint of flavor from the sliced red onions and cilantro. It was oh so refreshing!!! I’ve had it twice since the BBQ and had to share. It’s easy, healthy and perfect for a summer barbecue, family dinner or party. The best part is you can make it without following much of a recipe. When I did it I used ~ 1/2 a watermelon and sprinkled the feta, cilantro and red onion on until it looked like it was coated well. I then squeezed the lemon juice on top, mixed and served. I would recommend making it soon before serving as watermelon can drain overnight.

Ingredients:

  • ~1/2 a Watermelon- diced
  • Feta Cheese- crumbled
  • Red Onion- thinly sliced (I used ~1/4 of one so it wasn’t overpowering)
  • Cilantro- chopped/minced
  • Juice from one lime

Chocolate Boozy Cakes

Hello! I’m Kristen, guest blogger and Sina’s website designer. I hope everyone’s enjoying the site. Sina is a great friend of mine. There’s never a dull moment when we hang out, and last night added to our list of adventures.

While enjoying a bottle of red, we decided to open up Booze Cakes — a cookbook my mother-in-law, Jill, bought for my husband for his birthday (of course, I’ve gotten plenty of use out of his gift ;). For those that love sweets and spirits, this is a book for you.) We chose to make the “Mexican Chocolate Cakes with Tequila Cajeta Caramel Sauce” for the dark chocolate flavor and ‘big smily face’ booze meter. After Sina’s post on facebook, we received a few requests for the recipe. Here it is!

Flourless chocolate cakes with tequila caramel sauce

Flourless Chocolate Cakes

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 9 ounces semisweet dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon coffee liqueur
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 425°F. Grease and flour a 12-cup cupcake pan.

  1. In a soucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Stire in chocolate and cook until melted. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
  2. In a mixing bowl, beat egg yolks and remaining sugar until thick and pale yellow. Beat in coffee liquor (we did not have Kahlua, so we used Port wine instead). Stir the warm chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture and blend well.
  3. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites with salt until stiff. gently fold the egg whites into the chocolate mixture. Pour batter into the pan. bake 15 minutes.

If you have cajeta or caramel sauce: combine 1/2 cup tequila and 1/2 cup cajeta or caramel sauce in a glass measuring cup; microwave 2 minutes or until melted. Stir until smooth.

For the homemade sauce recipe, follow below:

Tequila Caramel Sauce

Original recipe by Jamie at mybakingaddiction.com; our recipe includes the tequila, and should settle for 12 hours before use.

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or corn syrup)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • ½ cup heavy cream, heated until warm
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup tequila
  1. In a saucepan (at least 5 cup capacity), stir together the sugar, syrup, and water until the sugar is completely moistened.
  2. Heat, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is bubbling. Stop stirring completely and allow it to boil undisturbed until it turns a deep amber (like the color of Bass Ale). Immediately remove it from the heat and slowly and carefully pour the hot cream into the caramel. It will bubble up furiously.
  3. Use a high-temperature heat-resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon to stir the mixture until smooth, scraping up the thicker part that settles on the bottom. If any lumps develop, return the pan to the heat and stir until they dissolve. Stir in the butter and salt. The mixture will be streaky but become uniform after cooling slightly and stirring.

Allow the sauce to cool for 3 minutes. Gently stir in the vanilla extract and tequila.

Let the sauce sit for at least 12 hours to thicken.

Keep at room temperature for up to 3 days; refrigerated, about 3 weeks. To reheat, simply place in a microwave safe container and heat for about 45-60 seconds. Stir well.

No Bake Granola Bites

My neighbor, great friend and new mom to her second kid just celebrated her birthday. Knowing sleep is likely down and that she is a healthy eater who loves new recipes I though these would be the perfect gift to send her way! If you are on pinterest you may have seen the picture of these floating around. Well now it’s time to try them!

I first made a batch of these bites in November and I have since recreated them two more times. Each time varying them based on what is in my pantry. I’m so thrilled with the taste, flavor and whole ingredients that go into this granola like energy ball. I can not wait until our little one eats nut butters so she can enjoy some of their deliciousness too!

Below is the coconut, flax, chocolate chip variation I made for the birthday girl. I also put a few comments on things you can substitue or ideas to adjust them as well. I’ve also heard there is a variation where you add a little whole grain flour to make them taste more like cookie dough. YUM! I’ll definitely be trying that one in the future.

No   Bites

Ingredients (makes ~14-16 bites)

  • 1/2 cup of almond butter (I’ve also used peanut butter. Any nut butter will do)
  • 1/3 cup honey (Best part! I had fresh honey from my Aunt & Uncles Bee’s out in Colorado. It honestly made a difference in the flavor this time. Much more flavorful)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 3/4-1 cup coconut flakes (I had raw coconut and chopped it but any unsweetened coconut will do. Sweetened would work too but you really don’t need them any sweeter)
  • 1/3 cup ground flaxseed (you could also try hemp seed)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Mix the nut butter, honey and vanilla extract (they should blend easily but if not you can heat it for 10 or so seconds to melt it down to blend easier)
  2. Add remaining ingredients. and mix until everything is incorporated.
  3. Refrigerate for half an hour. Once chilled, roll into balls and enjoy. Store in the fridge and they will be fresh for a week!

Other ideas. Add nuts or dried fruit instead of flax seed, chocolate chips or in place of coconut. I think my next ones I’m going to do with dried cherries (because as you can probably see from my blog recipes I have an obsession with them). They are ~150 calories per bite (give or take). The nice thing is they are a whole grain rich with omega 3’s and a great snack to give you energy (and a your taste buds a party) between meals or after a meal to satisfy your sweet tooth!

Whole Grain Date & Cherry Bites

In my most recent Parents magazine there was a recipe for fig foldovers which inspired me to make a snack size bite that Elena could eat along with Ryan and I. I love the idea of having homemade snacks for our family and knew this I could change the recipe a bit to have less sugar and more whole grains. They did take a lot of dishes to make but were so worth it. We all can’t stop eating them and I already brought some in to work as well. A great way to get a whole grain snack packed with fruit and some sweetness to satisfy anyone mid day.

They made 48 bites and we decided to freeze some but continue to go through them super fast. I think next time I will all whole grain flour; the only reason I didn’t this time was because I ran out. They would work with any dried fruit but I loved the combination of the cherries and dates. If you are going to try these make sure to look for dried fruit without added sugar.

Now get to the store to get ingredients and get baking!  My husband and I love them and they are soft enough for our daughter to bite on her own (a huge bonus not to have to cut it up!).

Whole Grain Date & Cherry Bites

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried dates, pitted and chopped (no sugar added)
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped (no sugar added)
  • 1 1/2 tsp orange zest (I didn’t measure and just used the zest from half an orange)
  • Juice from one orange (freshly squeezed- if a few chunks of orange go in that’s okay it will cook down and add fiber)
  • ~1/2 cup of water
  • 1 cup salted butter, softened – I may cut a few tbsp out next time to see if the dough still forms with less)
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  •  1 1/2 cup all purpose flour – you could use all whole grain too if you have it
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • dash of salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Add the dried fruit and next 4 ingredients (through water) into a saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer until almost all the liquid is absorbed (mine took ~11 minutes). Remove from the heat to cool
  3. Beat butter quickly in a mixer then add the sugar until combined. Once combined add the eggs and vanilla and blend together.
  4. In a bowl,stir together the dry ingredients (whole wheat flour through salt).
  5. Beat dry ingredients into butter to form a dough and knead together until combined
  6. Divide the dough into 4 separate sections. Using parchment paper set one piece of dough between parchment paper (if you have it..if not lay flour down on a level surface) and roll into a rectangle
  7. Spread 1/4 of the dried fruit along one side of the dough, fold dough over and press edges down with a fork. Cut into 12 pieces.
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with the other three parts of dough and filling.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes, or until browned to your liking. Remove and cool before serving.

Caribbean Carrot Soup

I don’t know how to put in words the deliciousness that is this soup! YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT!! My mom found the recipe in her Madison magazine and it sounded perfect from the start since I love soup and it has some of my favorite ingredients: coconut milk, ginger and sriracha (well it called for hot sauce but my mom used sriracha). My mom, Ryan and I have almost eaten the whole batch in three days and we can’t wait to make it again. We made it with a big kick of spice which went perfect with the caribbean flavors. I HIGHLY recommend you make it. It’s light, flavorful and filled with healthy beta-carotene. I’m speechless it was so good…Delish!!

Caribbean Carrot Soup

Source: Madison Magainze March 2013

INGREDIENTS

5 pounds large carrots
2 tbsp plus 3 tbsp canola or sunflower oil
1 large yellow onion
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 tbsp curry powder
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup plus 2 quarts vegetable or chicken stock
1.5 cans coconut milk
Salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste – my mom used sriracha
Chopped cilantro (for garnish) – we skipped this since we didn’t have any cilantro in the fridge

RECIPE

Peel and chop carrots into large pieces. Coat in about 2 tbsp oil and 1/4 cup stock. Place on parchment and roast at 400 degrees for about 45–60 minutes until carrots are fork-tender.

While carrots are in the oven, chop onion and garlic and grate ginger. In the bottom of a large enameled pot, add 3 tbsp oil and saute garlic, onion and ginger until onions are translucent. Add curry powder and bay leaf and sauté about 1 minute. Add roasted carrots and 1 quart broth and let come to a simmer. Pour in remaining stock and bring to a simmer again. Add coconut milk and remove bay leaf.

Use immersion blender to puree soup, adding stock to thin to desired consistency. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste. Serve hot with chopped cilantro.

 

Curry-Rubbed Salmon

We were honored to have my Aunt Nancy visit last week and help out with our daughter. As if that wasn’t enough she decided to cook dinner for us as well. Wetook out a handful of my cookbooks the night before and browsed for a new tasty recipe. After browsing many books nothing beat out the recipes we found in one of my favorite books: Power Foods from the editors of whole living magazine.

After reviewing all our options we landed on curry-rubbed salmon with napa slaw, brown basmati rice and sauteed zucchini and red peppers.

It was delicious!! Using the broiler for the salmon kept it very moist which to me is the first key to a good piece of fish. I expected a stronger curry flavor  but it was faint (in a good way) and the slaw was the perfect pairing. The mint and lime flavors were refreshing on a cold February night and perfect with fish. I’ve been eating the leftovers all week. I’ll definitely make it again. The one change I’d make is to add an extra juiced lime to the slaw as it felt a little dry.

Three Bean Salad

You may be wondering if I stopped cooking now that I’m working and a mom. The answer is no, I still cook. The problem is I don’t have time to post all the things I make. Tonight though our daughter had a great evening eating dinner with us followed by a 7pm bath which meant I had time to prep a salad for a work pot luck tomorrow and post about it.

I decided to try a new three bean salad. My first impression is that I like it but I want to see how it infuses over night. It has a mustard flavor to it with the dijon and the fresh parsley and shallots are a great touch.

Three Bean Salad

Source: Cooking Light August 2012

Basil Pepper Pesto

My husband and I love sauces, spreads and things with a kick. Now that it’s basil season that means lots of pesto. Pesto chicken paninis, pasta, sandwiches, salad dressings…you get my drift. We love pesto!! When we were up north over the fourth of July I saw a recipe for a spicy pesto that caught my eye. We made it last week and I can’t wait to make it again this week. It was AMAZING. I know I say that a lot but this truly was to die for. We ate it everyday until it was gone. Day one was grilled chicken with the pesto on top, day two paninis with pesto, day three grilled chicken club sandwiches with pesto. I even found myself sneaking in the kitchen to dip pretzels in it during the day. If you like a little spice you will love this recipe (I think I may even try a little jalapeno in it next time too to kick it up another notch). They said you can store it in your refrigerator for up to three weeks but believe me it will be long gone before you have to worry about the expiration date. I can’t wait to try it on pasta and grilled fish!!

Basil Pepper Pesto

Adapted from David Rocco’s Pesto Sauce in People Magazine

Ingredients

  • 2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, washed and dried
  • 1 cup hot peppers (the original recipe calls for Serrano, I used salsa hot peppers from my garden but a mix would work as well. Now if you don’t like a big kick go with a pepper with less heat like a banana)
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not oil packed)
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

 

Directions

  1. Place the first four ingredients in a food processor fitted with steel blade. Process until well combined (but not pureed). If you don’t have a food processor you could also chop these ingredients on a cutting board and lace in a bowl
  2. Place mixture in a jar or storable container and pour in olive oil and stir.

The amazing cooks I know…

It’s been too long since I featured some of the amazing food that I eat after other peoples hard work. A few weeks ago my dear friend Amanda, who I met at work came over to visit Elena and I. Not only did she bring wine she also brought everything to cook us dinner. I was already grateful for her company and delicious food but we also had a good cribbage match (I won) and she did the dishes…talk about an amazing friend. For those of you who have moved to a city that you didn’t grow up in or go to college in you will agree it’s always fun to make new friends. I was blessed to be introduced to Ryan’s friends from growing up when we moved here and I nowcall them my best friends as well but it’s always fun when you start to make your first friends on your own. Amanda is one of those women for me. After working at Regions Hospital for about six months I had seen her a few times in medical rounds and then noticed her wearing something Badger (I can’t remember if it was her badge holder or what). As most of you know I’m a huge UW-Madison fan as I am an alum (Go Bucky!) so I struck up a conversation that likely went something like this:

Me: “Hey are you a Badger fan”

Amanda: “Yeah I went there for college”

Me: “Me too. Want to come over this weekend to watch the football game”

Amanda: “Definitely”

…the rest is history. We’ve attended Badger/Gopher basketball games together, attended an alumni event and watched football games together. She’s just as into sports as me and always up to talk about the recent game and news at work. So, over the years we have become great buds. We have much more in common than Madison such as our love for cooking, laughing, playing cribbage, gardening, etc…

Have I talked her up enough!?! Okay, well now let me show you what she made for dinner.

Amandas Ravioli with Chicken, Asparagus, Roasted Tomatoes topped with Fresh Basil Pesto

Ingredients

  • Roasted tomatoes (see recipe below)
  • Fresh basil pesto (see recipe below or you could use store bought but you would lose a lot of the fresh taste)
  • Two package of pre-made ravioli, any type (we used one mushroom, one beef)
  • 3 chicken breasts, pounded so they have a thin consistent thickness
  • Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning
  • One bunch of Asparagus, washed with the ends trimmed off

Things that can be made ahead:

Roasted Tomatoes: 

Toss cherry tomatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, place on a pan. Cook in the oven at 350 until the juices start to run and the tomatos are kinda of shrivelled up (~30-40 minutes)

Fresh Basil Pesto:
2 cups packed fresh basil
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup shredded parmesean
3 cloves of garlic (FYI: Amanda uses a couple more than this because she love garlic)
Salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a  a food processor, blend then slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil

Day of Directions:

  1. Fill a pot with water and bring to boil
  2. Heat grill to 400 degrees
  3. Pound out chicken until it is equal thickness throughout between 2 pieces of wax or parchment paper (You can just used a flat pan for this if you dont have a meat pounder)
  4. Season chicken with Grill Mates Monterey Steak seasoning
  5. Spray grill pan and place asparagus and chicken on the grill pan. Grill until cooked (~6-7 minutes per side)
  6. While the chicken and asparagus are cooking place ravioli in the boiling water and cook according to the directions.
  7. Once the chicken and asparagus are done, let the chicken rest, then cut into pieces
  8. Place a few ravioli onto a bowl or plate, layer with chicken, asparagus, cold roasted tomatoes top with pesto and serve.

Crop Share Cooking

As I titled my post for today I was reminded of my families favorite quote from the movie Good Morning Vietnam. What a perfect quote after our crazy hot and humid month of July with constant 90-100 degree temps + humidity.

Hey, can you tell me what’s your name? “My name is Roosevelt E. Roosevelt.” Roosevelt, what town are you stationed in? “I’m stationed in Poontang.” Well, thank you, Roosevelt. What’s the weather like out there? “It’s hot! Damn hot! Real hot! Hottest things is my shorts. I could cook things in it. A little crotch pot cooking.” Well, tell me what it feels like. “Fool, it’s hot! I told you again! Were you born on the sun? It’s damn hot! It’s so damn hot, I saw little guys, their orange robes burst into flames. It’s that hot! Do you know what I’m talking about?” What do you think it’s going to be like tonight? “It’s gonna be hot and wet! That’s nice if you’re with a lady, but ain’t no good if you’re in the jungle!” Thank you, Roosevelt.

For those of you who haven’t seen this movie I highly recommend watching it. No, I’m not crotch pot cooking today although if you don’t have air conditioning you could. Instead I’m crop share cooking! I find myself with a stash of random vegetables a week or so after our crop share drop offs. While some things like zucchini, carrots, kale, garlic, onions and many more are used within days some tend to sit in our crisper for longer periods of time and I want to fix that so I went looking for recipes with kohlrabi, swiss chard and garlic scapes that would make it into our regular rotation. My first experiment was pesto. I’ve heard of garlic scape pestos and swiss chard pestos so I figured I’d try to make my own combined variation. I love how it turned out. A strong garlic flavor with the perfect note of lemon and a small spicy taste. The swiss chard is subtle since it was blanched ahead (which is good this means my husband will like it). Another addition to this could be 1/4 cup of walnuts. This pesto will be perfect for a spread on sandwiches/paninis or as a sauce over pasta or grilled chicken breasts.

Garlic Scape and Swiss Chard Pesto

Ingredients 

  • 3 garlic scapes
  • 1 bunch swiss chard leaves (remove from stems and use leaves only)
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil

Directions

  1. Pull swiss chard off stems and blanch in boiling water for one minute
  2. Strain and squeeze out water
  3. Put the chard, garlic scapes, walnuts, lemon, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper in food processor and blend until smooth.
  4. Slowly pour olive oil in through the top hole of your food processor while it is on. Blend until oil is immersed
  5. Serve with cooked pasta, as a sauce over grilled chicken breasts or spread onto sandwiches or paninis.

My next challenge was to find a way to cook kohlrabi that makes me want to come back for more. When I came across this recipe in the New York Times I knew it was my last opportunity to fall in love with this vegetable. If I don’t love it as a fry when will I love it?

Kohlrabi Home Fries  

I do realize this isn’t the healthiest way to cook kohlrabi but it is a great swap out for french fries (richer in Vitamin C, B vitamins, fiber and less calories) and they were delicious. I’m serious, delicious! You really don’t need much oil to cook them (i’d err on the light side with 2 Tbsp vs 4) since the kohlrabi doesn’t absorb much. I will definitely be making these again and can’t wait to feed them to my husband. I chose to do half chili powder and half cumin seasoned. I think next time I’ll make a southwest dipping sauce out of light sour cream to go with them! YUMMY.

Ode to Quinoa

It’s time I pay respect to one of my favorite grains. You may be asking why we need to pay respect to a food…well, here’s why. One it’s a whole grain. Two, it’s a complete protein. Three, it’s gluten free so can accomodate many diets and four, it’s quick and easy to make. Who doesn’t love that. A half cup serving contains ~110 calories, 2.5 grams fiber and 4 grams of protein. I frequently cook quinoa and add any combination of herbs and vegetables to it which is how the stuffed portabella mushroom recipe was created. I’ll put how I made it below but feel free to vary it. The recipe is a great way to make two meals from one dish. I made the quinoa as a side to our dinner Monday and then two days later used it up by stuffing these mushrooms. The second recipe I have been eyeing up ever since I saw the picture of it on pinterest. The fact that it has quinoa, lemon, avocado and cilantro made me know it would taste just as amazing as I had imagined. I will definitely make this one again and I also plan to keep mushrooms around for stuffing when I’m back at work!

Quinoa stuffed Portabella Mushrooms

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup quinoa
  • A large handful of fresh cilantro
  • 5 green onions
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 6 portabella mushrooms
  • 2-4 ounces of goat cheese

Directions

  1. Heat 3 cups of water with 1 ½ cups of quinoa until boiling (if you are stuffing the peppers the same day you should also preheat the oven to 375 degrees)
  2. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid is absorbed (~15 minutes)
  3. Chop a large handful of cilantro and 4 to 5 green onions and add to the quinoa
  4. Season with salt, pepper and a dash of crushed red pepper
  5. Wash the portabella mushrooms and pull the stems out of each of them and set them in a baking dish
  6. Scoop quinoa mixture into portabella mushrooms and top with goat cheese
  7. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. 

Lemony Quinoa and Avocado Salad

I followed a recipe from pinterest: Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Lemon Tahini Dressing with a few changes. I listed how I cooked it below. This can be made in advance with the avocado added right before serving. If served as a side like we did it would serve 5-6.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup green onions or chives, diced
  • 2 tbsp tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lemon juiced (~1/4 cup)
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Dash of salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat 1 cup of water with ½ cups of quinoa until boiling
  2. Cover and reduce heat to low and cook until the liquid is absorbed (~15 minutes)
  3. While the quinoa cooks prep your ad ins and dressing: chop your bell pepper, cilantro and green onions and place in a medium bowl
  4. To make dressing whisk together the tahini, olive oil, garlic and lemon juice
  5. Once quinoa is cooked add it to the bowl with the chopped red bell pepper, cilantro and green onions. Pour dressing on top and toss (THIS CAN ALL BE DONE A DAY IN ADVANCE)
  6. Chop and add the avocado to the quinoa prior to serving and top with a dash of salt and pepper.
  7. Serve cold

Tilapia a la Veracruz

There are so many joys to motherhood and maternity leave. Besides all the amazing cuddles, coos and fun Elena shares with me on a daily basis I’ve also been blessed to have a lot of my family who live out of town visit. In addition, Elena must know that her mommy loves to cook because she usually takes a long nap or enjoys kicking her legs on her mat which gives me free time in the kitchen. This past week my cousin Maddi was able to come over to meet Elena and join us for dinner. Knowing she is a pesce-vegetarian I wanted to cook fish but with a new twist. Thanks to my husband I had a great recipe cut out for a mexican style fish from his Mens Health magazine. The original recipe calls for snapper but since my grocery store didn’t have snapper I made it with tilapia. Truly, I think any white fish would work great in this recipe. Also, the original recipe has you grill the fish in tinfoil packets but with the rain we decided to bake them instead.

There were many things that I loved about this recipe. First, it was super easy and quick to prepare which will be great for when I’m back at work (It took less than 30 minutes). Also, most of the things it calls for are things I have on hand in my pantry or in my garden. Lastly, and most importantly, all three of us thought it was delicious. The cooked tomatoes, lime juice and cilantro gave it a fresh flavor that mixed great with the hint of salt you tast from the olives and capers. We forgot to add the jalapenos but I would imagine the spice would just enhance the dish. I can’t wait to try them in it next time.

Tilapia a la Veracruz

Recipe adapted from Mens Health June 2012’s Snapper a la Veracruz recipe

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup pitted chopped green olives
  • 2 Tbsp capers
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes (keep these whole)
  • 1 handful fresh cilantro roughly chopped (you could also use parsley here if you had that instead)
  • Juice from one lime
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Fresh or pickled jalapenos chopped (this is optional and we actual forgot to add them in but next time I will make sure to use them as we love spice)
  • Four 4-6 ounce white fish filets (snapper, tilapia, cod, halibut, etc…)

Directions:

  1. Heat grill to medium or preheat the oven to 425
  2. In a small bowl combine the olives, capers, cherry tomatoes, cilantro, lime juice, olive oil and jalapenos.
  3. If you are cooking them on the grill take out four pieces of aluminum foil that will be large enough to fold over your fish. Place a piece of fish in the center, season with salt and top with 1/4 of the salsa mixture. Now fold the foil over so the fish is completely covered. Roll the edges tightly to seal the package. Place the packets on the grill (grill should max out at 450) and cook until the fish is done and flaky (~8-10 minutes)
  4. If you are using the oven take out a 8 x 11 pan and line it with aluminum foil. Place the four fish filets on top of the foil, lightly salt them then top each filet with 1/4 of the salsa mixture. Place the pan in the oven and cook for ~10-12 minutes or until the fish flakes.

Mango Slaw

It’s officially summer which means it’s time for me to make a ton of grain salads, slaws and other cold dishes. When my mom was in town we went to my favorite food blog: Smitten Kitchen and she found a delicious salad for Memorial Day.  I would definitely make this one again! We paired it with burgers and a fruit salad.

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients

  • 2 mangoes, peeled, pitted and julienned
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds Napa cabbage, halved and sliced very thinly
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced (we did less since it’s a strong flavor)
  • 6 tablespoons of fresh lime juice, from about two limes
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons oil of your choice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds

Directions

  1. Toss mangoes, cabbage, pepper and onion in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk lime juice, vinegar, oil, salt and red pepper in a smaller bowl and pour over slaw. (You can refrigerate it for an hour to let the flavors infuse but you don’t need to).
  3. Before serving, toss with mint leaves and sesame seeds.

Spicy Korean BBQ Chicken

Day twelve of being a mom and so far I love it. Things thus far have gone relatively smooth and I’ve been able to occasionally cook. I even have a new number #1 fan who already joins me in the kitchen (see picture below). I think she’s going to love cooking just liker her mama. 

For my first post in awhile I didn’t know where to begin with new recipes…the last month of pregnancy my stack of recipes to make got overwhelmingly big. Since I’ve been away from posting in awhile I wanted to make sure my first post back was dynamite so I chose a recipe my husband gave me from Men’s Health for our barbecue with my parents and Ryan’s parents. The recipe is from the executive chef of Momofuku David Chang. Having eaten his food before in New York (and knowing my cousins husband works at his restaurant) I knew this would be a delicious recipe and we were right. This chicken was absolutely dynamite. I HIGHLY recommend making it this summer. It was a fun new flavor for grilling chicken. The chicken thighs were extremely tender and the slight kick with Korean flavor was addicting. This is a recipe I will definitely be using again soon!

Spicy Korean BBQ Chicken 

Recipe from Executive Chef David Chang featured in Men’s Health Magazine

Ingredients

  • 8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha hot sauce
  • 2 Tbsp grapeseed oil (I used canola oil instead)
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 1Tbsp honey
  • 1 Tbsp korean miso or white japanese miso
  • 1 Tbsp minced ginger (I grated mine in)
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions

Directions

  1. Place the chicken thighs in a large resealable bag.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix together the oil, apple juice, honey, miso, ginger, garlic and salt. Add 1 cup of water and mix thoroughly. Next, mix in the onion and scallions.
  3. Pour half the marinade mixture into the plastic bag with the chicken, seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to a day. (Note: I would only pour enough to cover the chicken and save the rest to make the sauce after as the topping sauce was delicious)
  4. Refrigerate the remaining marinade in a small covered saucepan
  5. When it’s time to eat place the saucepan of reserved marinade on medium heat and simmer until the mixture is thickened and saucelike, about 20 minutes
  6. Take the chicken out, brush a grill pan with oil and set the heat to medium high. When the grill is hot place the thighs on and cook until the undersides have charred grill marks (about 5 minute).
  7. Flip the thighs and cook until a meat thermometer inserted in the middle reads 165 degrees (about 5 more minutes). Let them rest for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Serve  chicken with the sauce on top (it’s recommended to serve with white rice and grilled vegetables such as scallions, mushrooms or bok choy…we  served it with grilled zucchini, eggplant and corn)


Muffin Overload

Another weekend waiting for our baby with lots of time to bake! As I near my due date (this Friday, May 11th) I was thinking I should bake something for the staff that will take care of my bundle of joy and myself. Since I work at the hospital I know that nurses and staff get a lot of sweet treats. While we all love them we also hate that they sit their tempting us to eat more all day so I pondered what I should make for longer than necessary. It would be way to typical for a dietitian to bring something like fresh fruit to say thanks. Plus that didn’t seem exciting enough so I tried something that I felt was a good half way point between a baked dessert and overly healthy option, healthy verison of muffins. It was my lucky day because I went to Cooking Light’s website and they had an article titled “Healthy Muffin Recipes” with 24 of their top choices.

The first recipe that caught my eye was one I’ve featured on here before: blueberry and oatmeal muffins. Since I wanted to try something new I kept looking. Uw yum, then I saw sour cream and coffeecake muffins and got way to excited to realize I don’t have any sour cream on hand and I didn’t want to run out to the store again. I was still in luck as there were many more tasty looking options. I decided to try the Chocolate Chocolate Chip muffins for the sweet lovers. Myverdict: Very good and not dry for being a light recipe although I have to say that personally I’ve never been a chocolate muffin fan (I know shocking as I love everything else chocolate). I like hearty muffins and would prefer cake or a cupcake if I’m wanting a dose of chocolate but for those who like chocolate muffins this recipe was easy and turned out great.

Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins

To give a good variety I decided to do a heartier muffin as well and chose the Banana Nut Muffins with Oatmeal Streusel. My verdict: very good flavor from the walnuts and bananas and the streusel gives a great touch to the top. I would definitely make these again.

Banana Nut Muffins with Oatmeal Streusel

Miso-Ginger Salmon with Sesame Green Beans and Rice Pilaf

As my husband and I near my due date (12 days and counting) we don’t have many weekend plans. After an early night on Friday and nothing planned Saturday we decided to see if some friends wanted to come over for dinner. While we love down time we have had a lot lately so we figured why not host a little dinner gathering with Ryan’s best friends from high school. I was excited to have company since I’ve had a recipe for miso-ginger salmon from a friend I’ve been dying to have again and feature on my blog. To stick with the theme I decided to use other Asian flavors in my side dishes.

The original salmon recipe is a Bobby Flay recipe called Miso-Ginger Marinated Grilled Salmon. Since it’s 46 degrees today I decided to bake it vs make Ryan stand in the cold to grill.  I also subbed low sodium chicken broth for mirin as the recipe calls for.

As for the complete meal…My favorite things to eat with salmon are brown rice and green beans (with a close tie for asparagus). To make it fit with my Asian themed dinner I sauteed the green beans with sesame oil then topped them with sesame seeds, salt and pepper. For our starch I made rice pilaf the way my mom taught me. This rice is a staple in our household and can be varied with herbs or vegetables for different flavors.

Miso-Ginger Salmon

Adapted from Bobby Flay’s recipe Miso-Ginger Marinated Grilled Salmon

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white miso paste
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 8 salmon filets

Directions

  1. Whisk the first six ingredients together in a small to medium bowl. This will make a lot of marinade and could coat up to 8 fillets. It can be cut in half if you are just making 4 salmon fillets
  2. Place the salmon filets in a glass container that will fit in your fridge and pour the marinade over. Cover and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes (this can be done the day before if you want them to set overnight for more flavor too). I marinaded mine for 2-3 hours
  3. When you are ready to cook the salmon put in a glass dish (or you can do what I did and use a shallow glass dish to marinade then you can use that to bake them). My husband and I love sauce so we actually left most of the marinade in the dish when baking to give more flavor and keep it moist.
  4. Cover and Bake at 375 for ~35-40 minutes.

Sesame Green Beans

This recipe is very easy and measurements are flexible based on how many green beans you’re cooking. Heat a large saute pan to medium, lightly spray with cooking spray. Add green beans and let cook 4-5 minutes. Now, add 1-2 Tbsp Sesame oil and cover the pan to finish the cooking (use more or less based on how many green beans you have, you want them lightly coated). Cook for 5-10 more minutes depending on how crispy you like them. I like mine to have a crunch still so I only cooked them for a total of 10 or 12 minutes. Turn heat off and sprinkle with salt, pepper and sesame seeds.

Whole Grain Rice Pilaf

Ingredients

  • 1/2 stick Butter
  • 1/2 to 1 onion, diced (the amount you add is flexible)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • A handful of spaghetti noodles, broken to ~1.5-2 inch pieces (~1/2 cup)
  • 2 1/2 cups Whole Grain Rice (I usually use Jasmine)
  • 5 cups Low sodium chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to season per taste

Directions

  1. Melt Butter in a sauce pan and add onion, garlic and noodles and cook until onions are translucent
  2. Add rice and chicken broth. Bring to a boil then cover and reduce heat to low and cook for 4o minutes
  3. Season with salt and pepper as desired

Chicken Salad

There is nothing I love more than to make a salad that I can enjoy for dinner and pack for lunches the next few days. With fresh bought pita pockets and organic chicken in the freezer I thought what better than to make chicken salad. I wasn’t interested in traditional chicken salad and while I love chicken salad with grapes and pineapple I decided to try a new spin tonight, a Mediterranean version. I was very pleased with the result and am looking forward to having them for lunch again tomorrow. The recipe has a slight kick from the crushed red peppers, some crunch from the bell pepper,a salty flavor from the olives and the dressing is light with a citrus tang flavor. A definite repeat recipe.

Chicken Salad Pita Pockets

Adapted from Cooking Light’s Mediterranean Chicken Salad Pitas

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup plain no fat Greek yogurt
  • the juice from one lemon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (I did 1/2 tsp since we like spice and it gave it a nice kick but if you don’t like spice I’d do 1/4 tsp)
  • 3 to 3 1/2 cups cooked chicken, diced (I diced the chicken raw and sauteed it to cook it quickly)
  • 1 larger red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped olives (I did kalamata but green would work too)
  • 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 (15 ounce) can of low sodium chick peas, rinsed
  • Dash of salt and pepper
  • Pitas cut in half
  • Tomato slices
  • Lettuce

Directions:

  1. Combine first four ingredients in a bowl and set aside
  2. In a separate bowl combine the cooked chicken, olives, cilantro and chick peas.
  3. Now add the yogurt to the chicken mixture and sprinkle with salt and pepper .
  4. Stuff the pita halves with sliced tomatoes, lettuce and chicken salad and serve.

IMG_1733

Carrot Cake Muffins

I’m so blessed to have a sister in law that I truly adore. Not only is she a great friend she is also a certified pastry chef (talk about amazing). I find myself yearning for her ability to bake without measuring and create such delicious items from scratch. Her creativity and intelligence are too good not to share.. I hope you enjoy her dishes and writing as much as I do.

……………………………………………………………………………..

March is rough on the imagination. As the sun begins to peek out from 6 months of Seattle cloud oppression, I can’t help dreaming. Peaches! Raspberries! Rhubarb! Juicy, ripe morsels just waiting to be baked into slumps, tarts, and cobblers. Sadly, when I go to open my CSA box, all I see are more carrots, apples and potatoes. I think the box contents can sense my impatience.
This week I decided to treat my produce to a farewell celebration. Instead of being roasted in olive oil yet again, these carrots cried out for a last hurrah. Inspired by my husband’s love of carrot cake, I tried my hand at a healthier, breakfast version. Most carrot cakes get their moist texture from a lot of oil, and their sweetness from sugar. These muffins use applesauce in place of oil, and I cut down on the sugar  with the addition of pineapple. (The carrots didn’t mind taking a quick vacation to the tropics).

You can use any blend of flour with this recipe. Personally, I like a half/half mix of King Arthur’s White Whole Wheat and All Purpose. For a denser, “healthier tasting” muffin, use more whole grain flour. For a lighter, fluffier muffin, All Purpose is the way to go. If you’re feeling a little bit naughty, these would be delicious with a smear of cream cheese frosting. Or just plain cream cheese. As is, they are a perfect way to start the day. The last bite of winter while we await the splendors of spring.
*One of my guinea pigs wanted me to mention that they were so good, he didn’t realize when he took a big bite of wrapper. Enjoy!

Carrot Cake Muffins

yield: 18 small muffins, 12 large muffins

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup diced pineapple (canned pineapple is fine, just drain the juice)
  • 1 lb. of carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 1/3 cups unsweetened applesauce (homemade or store bought)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, or a mix of the two
  • 3 extra large eggs
  • 1 TB. extra flour
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Line muffin tins with paper liners, spray lightly with cooking spray or butter.

1). Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
2). Using a Kitchen Aid or a hand held mixer, beat eggs, sugar and applesauce until pale yellow and creamy.
3). Mix vanilla into egg mixture.
4). Add flour mixture to eggs, being careful not to over mix. I mix this by hand.
5). Sprinkle extra tablespoon of flour over pineapple and carrots, coat evenly.
6). Add carrots and pineapple to batter, stir to incorporate.
7). Fill lined muffins tins with batter. I fill the tins completely; for smaller muffins, fill 3/4 of the way.
8). Bake for 15-18 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

Healthy Carb Dishes

Since I seem to be craving carbohydrates a lot during this pregnancy I decided to feature healthy ways to satisfy those cravings today on Twin Cities Live. Not only will you fill up on carbs, they will be the healthy kind and you will also get some servings of fruits and vegetables in with these three dishes. So, indulge away with this edamame garden salad, couscous salad with dried fruit or delicious whole wheat raspberry bar.  I make the edamame salad a lot and can tell you it’s delicious. The couscous salad was a new recipe for me but I taste tested it last night. I really liked the spices they added to the couscous, it has a middle eastern taste with a sweet finish from the dried fruit. I am yet to try to raspberry bars but the smell has been taking over my house and I can’t wait to try one. I can only imagine how tasty they are! To find out what other pregnant woment think of the foods watch Twin Cities Live today on Channel 5 at 3pm.

Here are the original recipes with my modifications in red.

Edamame Garden Salad

Source: MrFood.com

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup natural flavor rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (I usually do 1/2 to 1 whole lemons juice)
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups edamame, cooked according to package directions (see Note)
  • 1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped (I only use 1/4 of a red onion so the onion flavor won’t take over)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro


Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, combine olive oil, rice vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and black pepper; mix well and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over salad and toss until evenly coated. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serves 12. Nutritional Information (I calculated the calories/fat from sparkpeople.com) :

Nutrition per Serving (yields 12) = 154 calories, 10g Fat

Couscous Salad with Dried Fruit

Source: Cooking Light 2003

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian hot paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Dash of ground cinnamon
  • Dash of ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onions
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green olives
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 3/4 cup onion; sauté 5 minutes or until tender. Add paprika and next 7 ingredients (paprika through allspice); cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broth; bring to a boil. Gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with a fork. Place couscous in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil, tomatoes, and remaining ingredients; toss well. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serving size: 1 cup, serves 6

Nutrition Information: 258 calories, 7.5g Fat, 6.7g Protein, 4.6g Fiber

Raspberry Bars

Source: Eating Well

Ingredients

Crust

  • 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour or whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans (I was a little shy of 1/2 cup so I filled the 1/2 cup with pecans and topped with oatmeal to get to 1/2 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 tablespoons ice water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Raspberry Filling

  • 2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 3 cups fresh raspberries, divided
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons nonfat cream cheese, softened (I used 1/3 less fat cream cheese instead)
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat milk
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners’ sugar

Directions:

  1. To prepare crust: Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat an 8-inch-square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place flour, pecans, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt in a food processor; process until the nuts are finely ground. Add butter one piece at a time, pulsing once or twice after each addition, until incorporated. Add ice water and vanilla and pulse just until the dough starts to come together. Transfer to the prepared pan. Press evenly and firmly into the pan to form a bottom crust.
  3. Bake the crust until it looks set, but not browned, about 15 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack.
  4. To prepare raspberry filling: Sprinkle gelatin over 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl; let stand, stirring once or twice, while you prepare the rest of the filling.
  5. Reserve 16 raspberries. Puree the remaining raspberries in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a medium saucepan and stir in 1/2 cup sugar. Cook over medium heat until bubbling. Stir in the gelatin mixture and cook, stirring, until the gelatin is melted, about 1 minute.
  6. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Pour the raspberry mixture into a medium bowl and set it in the bowl of ice water. Refrigerate, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula, until the mixture thickens to the consistency of loose jam and is beginning to set around the edges, about 30 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, beat cream cheese, milk and confectioners’ sugar in a medium bowl with an electric mixer until smooth.
  8. Spread the thickened raspberry filling evenly over the crust. Dollop the cream cheese mixture over the filling. Draw the tip of a sharp knife or skewer through the two fillings to create a swirled effect. Nestle the reserved berries into the filling, evenly spacing them so each bar will be topped with a berry when cut. Refrigerate until the bars are completely set, about 3 hours. Cut into 16 bars, one raspberry per bar.

Nutrition Per bar (serves 16): 101 calories; 5 g fat ( 2 g sat , 2 g mono ); 6 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrates; 2 g protein; 2 g fiber; 94 mg sodium; 64 mg potassium.

 

Homemade Dog Treats

I’m going a different direction on my post today from humans to dogs. Most people who focus on good nutrition for their families are also concerned with their dogs nutrition and while I cook on a daily basis for my husband and myself I am yet to cook something homemade just for my dog. Tenley, our 55 pound fox red labrador retriever, loves to munch on carrots, chew (and chew and chew) on marrow bones and lick up any scraps that fall on the floor. Seeing as it’s her 2nd birthday tomorrow I wanted to make her homemade dog treats. This will be her last year as the sole Teskey “princess” as she will soon have to share that title with her baby sister so we wanted to live it up (I know she’s spoiled). After looking around I found a recipe on pinterest for dog treats that included two of her favorite things: peanut butter and beef.  I decided to tweak the recipe from all beef to a chicken and beef treat to add another one of her favorite flavors. She has been enjoying them all weekend and a lot of her dog friends had great reviews too. If you have a dog and want to do something fun I recommending trying these treats. They were very easy to whip up!

Homemade Beef & Chicken Dog Treats – original recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup butter- very softened or slightly melted
  • 1 cup boiling beef broth
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg, beaten (or 2 eggs to make treats softer for older dogs)
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325
  2. Combine oats, butter, boiling beef broth and then let stand for 10 minutes
  3. Stir in cornmeal, sugar, bouillon, milk, peanut butter and egg.
  4. Now add flour 1 cup at a time and then knead the dough
  5. Roll out dough to 1/2 inch thickness
  6. Cut out with cookie cutters (my dog food stores didn’t have a bone shaped one so we did fun shapes)
  7. Bake 35-45 minutes until golden brown
  8. Chill and serve

 

Kale Chips

As I sit and look out the window at the snow falling I find myself aching for my garden vegetables. As a dietitian selecting a favorite vegetable is near impossible and ever changing but one of my top picks for the past two years has been kale. I first was introduced to kale chips by my friend, the cohost of Twin Cities Live, Elizabeth Ries. My husband and I have been hooked ever since the first time I made them and it’s one of the only foods he consistently request I make all summer. I realized in the conversion of my blog to this website my kale chip recipe did not make it over. Since I’m running out to Target today and plan to get some kale to make kale chips for dinner I had to repost this as it’s one of our favorite recipes. We have grown kale in our garden for the past two years and it was like the giving tree. It grew and grew and grew and still was fresh to eat through earlier November. I started passing it out to friends, dropping it off in my neighbors mailbox and serving it for every occasion I could think of and it has been a hit! If you have a garden, save a little room and you will be pleasantly surprised.

 

Kale definitely a good thing to fall in love with since it is only 34 calories per cup but packed with nutrition including beta carotene, Vitamin C, Vitamin K and lots of minerals including iron and calcium. It is truly a guilt free treat! So, I dare those of you who are scared to try leafy greens to make this recipe. You won’t be disappointed. Then, once you become addicted to trying new ways to eat kale like I am I recommend trying the Spicy Tuscan Soup recipe on my site. I also hope to post a delicious kale salad recipe my family made for Thanksgiving and Christmas sometime soon.

Roasted Kale Chips

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F
  2. Wash 1-2 bunches of kale, remove stems, tear into small pieces
  3. Toss with 2 tsp olive oil and spread on baking sheet
  4. Salt and pepper lightly
  5. Bake until crisp and slightly golden around edges (10 minutes) –> I will warn you that you have to watch them closely as they can burn quickly

Gluten Free Cookies

I’ve had the pleasure of having Lauren, a student from Eagan High School, shadow me twice a week for the past three months as part of Eagan’s Mentorship program. It was so much fun to help her learn more about nutrition and join me in studio at Twin Cities Live and Fox 9 news and also teach her more about clinical nutrition. Lauren has many reasons why she is interested in nutrition but having Celiac’s disease and having to avoid all gluten in her diet is on the list. While I’ve made plenty of gluten free meals I’ve never personally tried to bake something gluten free. I was struggling to find a way celebrate her soon to be graduation and completion of her mentorship and a cookie fell in my hand…literally. I was at a meeting recently and someone brought gluten free cookies for the group. Not only was I excited that I could bake something for Lauren, I was excited because they were delicious. I asked for the recipe and here I am now, waiting for the second batch to come out of the oven.

A few things I’ll say to the recipe after preparing them tonight. First, they are very hearty! If you have a kitchenaid mixer beware that a full batch will not fit at the end. I ended up creaming the sugar and butter and adding the eggs, peanut butter and 1/2 the oats in the blender. I then moved the mixture to a large mixing bowl to stir in the remaining ingredients. Also, unlike regular cookies they don’t expand a lot in the oven so you can put them closer together. I made a full batch and used my Pampered Chef medium cookie scoop which gives a 2 Tbsp round ball and it made 62!!! Yes, I know have 62 cookies stacked in my kitchen waiting to be eaten. I think in the future I’ll cut the recipe in half .

Gluten Free Minnesota Whopper Cookies

Source: Coworker (makes ~ 62 cookies if you make 2 Tbsp dough balls)

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup butter-softened
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanila
  • 1 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 6 cups of oatmeal
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 10 ounces of chocolate chips
  • 2 cups dried fruit (I used dried cherries)
  • 1 cup walnuts

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix 6 cups of oats with baking soda in a bowl
  3. Place soft butter and both sugars in blender and cream (~4 minutes)
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla to blender and mix. Next, add the peanut butter and mix until incorporated. Now, blend in ~ 1/2 of the oats (at this point I moved the batter to a larger bowl but if you do a half batch you may be able to add all the oats to the blender now. If you move to a larger bowl add the rest of the oats to the mixture).
  5. Lastly, fold in the dried fruit, nuts and chocolate chips
  6. Roll into balls with ~2 Tbsp of dough and place on a cookie sheet
  7. Bake for 17 minutes or until lightly browned on top.
  8. Cool and Serve!

      

 

 

A thanks to the creator…

How do you say thanks to a dear friend who graciously created your website for you. Well, for me the answer was easy, have her over for dinner. While she’s the website and design expert, I can be the dinner chef. Kristen has been an amazing friend to me over the years. We grew up in Racine together and became closer as we got older and am so blessed that she lives in the Twin Cities with me. She’s an amazing freelance web designer and developer among many other thing (card player, friend, listener, happy hour mate, pedal pub participant, etc…). The past two months in her small window of free time she has taken on the task of upgrading me from my blog into a website, which would have taken me over a year with many flip out tantrums. I highly recommend checking out her website to see some of her work and get more information. I also encourage all my readers to browse the new site to see all the new and improved upgrades!

Ever since Ryan and I had a date night at Mill Valley Kitchen I’ve been craving their wild mushroom farro risotto. Since, Kristen’s a vegetarian and a fellow mushroom lover it seemed like the perfect time to try this out on my own and low and behold my favorite source, Cooking Light, had a recipe.

Farro Risotto with Mushrooms

I ventured to Whole Foods as I knew they would have some of the more obscure ingredients like mushroom broth. I also found they have an array of dried mushrooms to choose from. After much debate I went with shiitake, partially because I wasn’t familiar with some of the varieties and partially because I love shiitake mushrooms. I must forewarn all readers who plan to make this that soaking them in boiling water as the recipe states, did give a rather unpleasant smell, but know that it’s subtle and worth it as they gave a delicious flavor in the dish.

Another tip to readers. Farro, like most grains should be soaked before using. This is important to help rinse the grain and also, to politely say this, make it “more comfortable” to digest. Mine only soaked for 2 hours since I was making the dish the same night I bought the farro. If you know you are going to make it in advance I recommend soaking the farro overnight.

To finish our meal I paired our risotto with a salad of mixed greens, dried cherries, avocado, feta and poppyseed dressing then we finished our meal with a mini cheesecake and cannoli from Whole Foods. This was the perfect meal to make while Kristen was hard at work since it called for 30-40 minutes of stirring. It gave her time to do her web designing while I stayed out of the way. Our overall consensus was a double thumbs up on to the dish. I would definitely make it again for any risotto or mushroom lover or vegetarian foodie and Kristen anytime you’re craving it again you knows who to call.

Once again, a huge thank you to my dear friend Kristen Angel for all her amazing work on the site. I hope you enjoy the new look and upgraded features. Let us know what you think!

Feel Better Soup

After 6 days of being sick at home this past week I was craving some hot homemade soup. So, between naps, chugging water, coughing and blowing my nose I woke up from a nap with enough energy to do a little chopping for some comfort soup before another nap. I already needed to run to Byerlys in my pajamas to get baby Vick’s Vapor Rub so I picked up a rotisserie chicken. I got home and browsed the 101 healthy soups on Cooking Light and found a base recipe to use: Tuscan Chicken, Bean and Spinach Soup. I say base as I made a ton of modifications to fit what was in my cupboard.

Here was my version of what I call the
Feel Better Soup

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
2 cups peeled and diced squash
1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 can canellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups low sodium broth
4 cups water
2 Tbsp chopped parsley, rosemary and cilantro each
3 cups chopped rotisserie chicken
6 ounce bag of spinach
salt and pepper (I added more than usual since I used less broth and more water)
Grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:
1. Heat dutch oven over medium-high heat, add oil and butter. Let butter melt then add onion, carrots, celery, squash, mushrooms and garlic.
2. Sautee for ~ 5 minutes or until squash is soft
3. Add beans, broth, water and herbs; bring to a boil
4. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes
5. Add chicken, salt and pepper; cook for 2 minutes
6. Add spinach, let wilt (~3 minutes).
7. Serve in a bowl with sprinkled parmesan cheese on top.

Food of the Month

Cheese, Cheese, Cheese!

If you’re saying to yourself, why cheese? Well, for one, the packers are on a nice winning streak and I’m a proud cheese head and two, because the holidays make me think of delicious cheese dishes and plates.

I started my food of the month off a few days behind but with a great entrance.

Barefoot Contessa’s Mac & Cheese

This was a great dish for a Sunday afternoon. I made mine with Trader Joe’s organic vegetable radiatore noodles and I split my milk (1/2 skim milk and 1/2 2% lactaid milk). I also used a gruyere/swiss mix instead of straight gruyere cheese and it was delicious. Also, I only had whole wheat bread so I used this to make the bread crumbs. Lastly, and this was my mistake, I added 3/4 Tbsp instead of 1/2 tsp of nutmeg but we all liked it. I think I would do a 1/2 Tbsp if I made it again.

From a nutrition standpoint for macaroni and cheese I would classify this one in the middle. It’s not a low fat recipe but it also isn’t an insane recipe with cream and extra pounds of cheese. You could always cut back on how much cheese you add if you want to lighten it up even more.  I found it to be a nice balance that can be paired with some veggies or a side salad to round out the meal.

Another one of my favorite recipes for the holiday season to bring as an appetizer is the

Pesto Cheese Blossom from The Food Network

To make this healthier I always use fat free cream cheese.  You mix the cream cheese with garlic so it will still have a good flavor. I opt out of adding the pistachios since I’m not a big fan of them but I know others who have made this with them. I’ve brought this to a work party, friends party and made it for family and everyone loves it. Plus you can make it the day ahead and it’s Christmas colors.

It’s hard to talk about cheese and not talk about serving sizes. Cheese, in the right portion size is a great source of calcium but it is often over ate. Since it is made from milk it is higher in fat so it’s important to note how much you are eating. I would stick to 1- 1.5 ounces per serving. This looks like 6 dice and while that seems like a lot of plain cheese it adds up quickly when cheese is added to things like pizza, nachos, macaroni and cheese, etc…

Another thing to note is some cheese are a little lower in fat than others. For example, feta, provolone, mozzarella and swiss cheese have less natural fat than cheddar and havarti cheese. Another great cheese is Laughing Cow, who make a great portioned swiss cheese with 50 calories per wedge plus a light version that comes in multiple flavors for only 35 calories per wedge. It is a great substitution for cream cheese or to spread on sandwiches. Another way to cut back on the fat in cheese is to choose ones made with 2% milk. They will have less fat without sacrificing taste and texture like some fat free cheeses do.

Fighting Fruit Fatigue

You may remember I talked about fruit fatigue at the beginning of the month in my choose cherries post. Well today I discussed ways to fight fruit fatigue on Twin Cities Live. Try new ways to to eat fruit instead of only eating apples, bananas, oranges and watermelon. Many fruits are available year round in dried, juice, frozen or canned forms. The recommended amount of fruit for adults is 1-2 cups per day. Only one if 5 Americans are getting enough fruit each day, are you? I hope so and if not read on for some great ways to increase your fruit intake for a long, healthy life.

I showed viewers ways to cook with dried cherries, tart cherry juice, pears, grapefruits and grapefruit juice! I was also lucky enough to be accompanied by my cousin Jess who took so many lovely pictures during the segment.  Check out the finished dishes below (recipes linked at the bottom). I highly recommend the cherry chili for a delicious warm winter dish, the smoothie for breakfast or a snack, the baked brie as a Christmas party appetizer, the salad as a dinner party starter, the grapefruit slaw served with tilapia or cod and the ginger grapefruit spritzer as a party cocktail!

Prepping the food before the show
Cherry Chili and the Yogurt Cherry Smoothie ingredients ready to make live
Candied Walnut, Pear and Leafy Green Salad and Baked Brie en Crout with Pears
Grapefruit Slaw and Ginger Grapefruit Spritzers
 

Twin Cities Live Segment: Fruit Fatigue Link

Recipe Links

Cherry Chili
Cherry Yogurt Smoothie
Candied Walnut, Pear and Leafy Green Salad – try topping with goat cheese
Brie en Croute with Pears – I used croissants in place of the frozen pastry puff
Grapefruit Slaw – I topped it with grated fresh ginger
Ginger Grapefruit Spritzer

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Garlic and Shallots

What was your favorite Thanksgiving dish this year?

I was in charge of a vegetable side for our Thanksgiving meal and I chose to make a Brussel Sprouts recipe that I had tried a few weeks back and was a huge success! I made them ahead of time according to the recipe directions with the  addition of parmesan cheese sprinkled on top then we reheated them in the oven before we ate. If you like Brussel sprouts you’ll love this recipe that combines the flavors of garlic, bacon and shallots with this crunchy vegetable.

Brussel Sprouts with Bacon, Garlic and Shallots (recipe linked)

Cooking Light November 2012

Ingredients:

  • 6 slices center-cut bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 cup sliced shallot (about 1 large)
  • 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bacon, and sauté for 5 minutes or until bacon begins to brown. Remove pan from heat. Remove the bacon from pan with a slotted spoon, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings in pan (discard the remaining drippings).
  2. Return pan to medium-high heat, and stir in bacon, shallot, and Brussels sprouts; sauté 4 minutes. Add garlic, and saute for 4 minutes or until garlic begins to brown, stirring frequently. Add the chicken broth, and bring to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes or until the broth mostly evaporates and the sprouts are crisp-tender, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in salt and pepper.

Now, the best part about post-Thanksgiving. Sharing recipes from your meals. I’d love to hear what your favorite dish was or new things you tried. I love trying new recipes in the winter!

The perfect post-Thanksgiving dinner picture: Tenley taking a nap after enjoying her large marrow bone while the family ate their meal.

My Breakfast Obsession: Cherry & Walnut Oatmeal

Easy to prepare and very healthy; a whole grain breakfast that’s low in sodium, provides one serving of fruit and heart healthy walnuts and soy milk. What’s not to love? Try it out and let me know what you think. You’ll never go back to instant oatmeal again!

Sina’s Cherry & Walnut Oatmeal Recipe

Ingredients:

-1/2 cup Old Fashioned Oats (yes regular oats not instant — you can use gluten free oats to make it GF)
-3/4 cup Vanilla Soy Milk (you could use regular milk as well)
-1-2 Tbsp Chopped Walnuts
-1/4 cup Dried Cherries
-1 Tbsp Brown Sugar or 1/2 Tbsp Honey
-Sprinkle of Cinnamon (optional)

Directions:

1. Mix first four ingredients in a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes
2. Remove from microwave and mix in sweetener (brown sugar or honey) and cinnamon if desired
3. Enjoy!!!

Check out the Sodium Difference
1 packet Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Maple & Brown Sugar = 260mg sodium
1/2 cup dry Quaker Old Fashioned Oats = 0 mg sodium

A Gluten Free, Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Have you ever hosted a dinner party for friends or family members that have food restrictions you aren’t used to you and you can’t think of what to make? Most people have been there as I have and if you said no to this question don’t think it won’t happen as Gluten Free diets and allergies are on the rise.

Take my Aunt Nancy’s Thanksgiving challenge this year. Please two men who like meat, a vegetarian daughter, a daughter with Celiacs who is strictly gluten free and isn’t a huge meat eater and her own cravings. Sounds like a lot; I agree. The good thing is she owns a ton of cook books, is well read and loves to explore new recipes which means her meal will still rock the house! Her menu will inspire you to think outside the box for your holiday meal this year and remind you to include everyone, even those with food restrictions.

The Reeves/Postorino Gluten Free Thanksgiving Menu

For the Vegetarian

  • Triple-Corn Spoon Bread -A Cornbread Casserole that you can make with gluten free cornbread (a tradition in the Reeves household) Source: Cooking Light November 1997
  • Gravy: Using gluten free baking mix (see below pie recipe for this) to make a roux. Once that’s cooked, add vegetable broth and season appropriately to finish it.  This will likely be a little thinner that gravy made with flour
  • Gluten Free Stuffing- My AUnt plans to make one of the rice recipes from this link: 5 Gluten Free Stuffing Recipes from the NY Times
  • Mashed Sweet and White Potatoes (mixed together- a great combination for those who haven’t tried it)
  • Roasted Parsnips, Carrots and Onions
  • Brussel Sprouts
  • Pumpkin Pie with Gluten free pie crust (see recipe below)

For the Gluten Free

  • Same as above + Turkey

For the rest

  • All of the above + Rolls
My Aunt tested the pie crust this weekend and here is her advise.  Roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper sprinkled with gluten free baking mix. The crusts were crumbly when they were warm but they firmed up nicely overnight. Overall, she said they passed the test although my Uncle thought they were more sweet than regular crusts (likely from the sugar that’s added to the mix). Either of the below gluten free baking mixes will work, one requires a food scale and the other uses standard kitchen measuring devices.
Gluten Free Pie Crust
2.5 C gluten free mix (see below)
1 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar (optional; use if making a sweet/dessert pie)
8 T cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
6 T shortening
4-6 T ice water
-Combine dry ingredients.  Add butter and shortening and cut in until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Add ice water, 1-2 T at a time until the dough can be formed into a ball.  Divide dough in half.  Flatten each half into a disc, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  Can also be frozen.
-To make crust, roll out between two pieces of parchment paper.   Add filling of your choice and bake (at time/temp as per pie filling).

Gluten Free Baking Mix 1

From the New York Times
Combine:
2 C oat flour
2 C brown rice flour
2 C sorghum flour
5 T corn flour or corn meal
1 C potato starch
1 C arrowroot powder
Store in dry sealed container.  Use in place of regular flour.

Gluten Free Baking Mix 2

From glutenfreegirl.com
Combine:
200 gm brown rice flour
150 gm sorghum flour
50 gm potato flour
250 gm sweet rice flour
150 gm potato starch
100 gm arrowroot flour
100 gm cornstarch
Store in dry sealed container.  Use in place of regular flour.
Comments and debriefing from my family to follow post-Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving Food Fact: The average cost of a Thanksgiving dinner for 10 this year is $49.20 which is up 13% from last year according to the American Farm Bureau Federation

The amazing cooks I know…

This month I want to feature another amazing cook I know; my best friend Rachel.
You’ve probably heard me talk about Rachel before as she is one of the three women who inspired me to love cooking (her, my mom and my Aunt Nancy). Rachel has always been great at baking and trying fun new recipes. We both are Cooking Light addicts so it’s fun to hear what she makes out of the magazine each month and what I chose to make. Often times there is some overlap as we seem to have the same taste. She is also the proud mother to a new gorgeous baby girl, Alexis. Alexis is the luckiest girl in the world as she will always have delicious lunches that her friends will be jealous of.

I asked Rachel to think of a recipe she makes a lot to feature on the blog and she thought of the perfect dish; jambalaya. This is great for two reasons. One, I can think of multiple times I’ve been on the phone with Rachel as she makes this and two, I don’t eat shellfish so my blog is lacking great recipes with shrimp. What better recipe to make on a cold evening than this flavorful, spicy dish. My mom has already said she can’t wait to make this recipe! Enjoy!!!

Jambalaya with Shrimp and Andouille Sausage (click on the title to bring you to the recipe)
Source: Cooking Light April 2005

You know you’ve become an expert at a recipe when you have your to do adjustments. Here are Rachel’s recommended adjustments after many preparations.
-Double the Shrimp and Sausage
-Use a little extra of all the spices. If you’re nervous just do a few extra shakes of each
-Add Rotisserie Chicken

Serve with cornbread

Choose Cherries

Fall is upon us which means colder weather, falling leaves and for many back to the routine cold weather fruits. Nearly half of the fruit Americans eat are from oranges, bananas, apples and watermelon alone. While I love all four of those I also find myself searching for more variety and trying to avoid the dreaded fruit fatigue. Whether your 20, 30, 80 or a small child, we can all benefit from fruit so don’t let your intake go down this winter because of boredom! Only one in five Americans currently reaches their recommended intake of fruit each day (1-2 cups). One easy way to increase your intake is to try new fruit and recipes and fight off fruit fatigue. That’s why November’s food of the month is tart cherries.

Cherries are known as a super fruit for their powerful antioxidant properties that help reduce inflammation and in turn may help decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease or decrease the symptoms of arthritis. They are also a great source of potassium and recent research shows they may relieve muscle pain for active adults.

It’s no surprise that eighty-seven percent of Americans put taste as their number one consideration when purchasing food. Cherries sweet, tart and juicy flavor will keep you coming back for more. Another plus for cherries are the many forms available year round (fresh, frozen or dried) making it easy to add them to your daily intake. They’re also a great fruit for the holiday season; their bold red color can brighten any dish and add flavor to meats, stuffings, sides and desserts.

To start out this month I made a new cherry smoothie recipe from Choose Cherries. I really enjoyed the hint of cinnamon mixed with the sweet honey and tart cherries.

Cherry Berry Smoothie

Ingredients

1/2 cup frozen tart cherries, pitted
1/2 cup 1% low fat milk
1/4 cup plain lowfat yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh blueberries
1 tablespoon cherry juice concentrate
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
8 ice cubes

Garnish

1 tablespoon slivered toasted almonds
1 tablespoon chopped dried tart cherries

Directions


Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. Pour into two chilled glasses
Another one of my favorite ways to eat cherries is in a pork dish my mother in law makes. If you like savory with a touch of sweet I highly recommend trying this recipe.

Pork Roast Tenderloin with Dried Cherries and Rosemary

Serves 6
Source: The Foster’s Market Cookbook by Sara Foster 

Ingredients

Two 1-pound pork tenderloins
½ cup dried cherries
1/3 cup dry red wine
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¾ cup good-quality, all-natural cranberry juice
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 shallots, cut in half lengthwise
3 tablespoons fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Directions

1. Rinse the pork loin, pat dry, and place in a shallow glass or ceramic baking dish.  Set aside.
2. Whisk together the cherries, wine, vinegar, cranberry juice, shallots, and rosemary in a bowl.  Pour this mixture over the pork, cover, and refrigerate 2 to 3 hours or overnight, turning the pork several times.
 3. Heat the olive oil in a large, ovenproof skillet over medium heat.  Remove the pork from the marinade (reserve the marinade) and place the pork in the heated skillet.  Cook the pork on all sides, 5 to 6 minutes total time, until light brown.   (I browned in my electric skillet then transferred to a baking dish).
 4. Pour the reserved marinade over the pork and place the skillet (or baking dish) in the oven.  Roast, basting several times, 20 to 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 150 to 155 degrees.  The meat will be a very light pink color.  (NOTE:  The pork will continue cooking after it is removed from the oven).
 5. Remove the pork from the baking dish and place on a grooved carving board.  Cover the pork loosely and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before carving.
 6. Season with salt and pepper.  Slice into ¼-inch pieces and spoon the pan juices over the pork.  Serve immediately.
I’m also really excited to try Cooking Light‘s Wild Rice Stuffing with Dried Cherries and Toasted Pecans from the November 2011 issue.
For more information and numerous great cherry recipes go Choose Cherries

Potato Leek Soup

You may be wondering if our crop share ended since I haven’t posted in awhile. The answer is no and the reason I hadn’t posted in awhile is the recent shares have been for foods that we often eat raw (carrots, lettuce, arugula, cucumbers) or things like onions and garlic that I add to everything.

This past weeks share I did receive a few special treats: potatoes and leeks. It was like someone was saying to me “Make potato leek soup.” I have had leeks at restaurants but I’ve never cooked with them before so I was so happy to get them in my crop share to prep on my own. I was also excited when I found a potato leek recipe that called for all ingredients I had at home: Potatoes (check), leeks (check), butter (check), broth (check even though I used chicken), salt, pepper and thyme (check- I used dried) and cream (As you can imagine I didn’t have this but also didn’t plan to use it; skim milk was my substitute). I also didn’t make the cheddar toasts but they do sound amazing and I would recommend trying them if you have time.

Golden Potato Leek Soup with Cheddar Toasts

Source: Cooking Light, October 2005
Notice the burned in “S” on my favorite wooden spoon. My friend Claire’s mom did that by hand!

My first time with cooking with leeks was a success. Perfect for a cold fall evening or light meal. Probably good I made it a night my husband wasn’t home for dinner as I don’t think he would have enjoyed it as much. He prefers bold flavors and this was subtle and simple.  I’m not sure I would go out of my way to buy the ingredients to make it again unless I was sick and craving a light soup but I would recommend trying it you typically like potato soup or potato leek soup.

Healthy Soups

I am presenting my first cooking segment on Twin Cities Live tomorrow, Wednesday October 12th. I’m going to make two of the soups I’ve blogged about before: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup and Spicy Tuscan Soup.

People often think of soup and picture cream based options. While these may taste good they are high in fat and calories. I’m going to show broth based soups that are healthy but still flavorful.

Tips for Making Healthy Soup

  • Use water or low sodium broths as your base
  • Try adding a small amount of skim milk or 1% milk to soup to add creaminess without much fat
  • Start with onions, garlic, carrots and/or celery to get lots of flavor without calories
  • Think fresh herbs and spices for added taste instead of loads of salt
  • Choose lean meats. Try making chicken chili or choose a lean ground beef or ground turkey breast (make sure it says turkey breast otherwise the turkey may contain some of the skin and not all breast meat)
  • Load up on vegetables: zucchini, tomatoes, squash, potatoes, corn, peppers, kale and beans are great additives to soup
  • When adding beans, look for low sodium varieties. If these aren’t available drain your beans in a strainer and run cold water over them for a minute to wash off some of the sodium

HEALTHY SOUP RECIPES FROM TWIN CITIES LIVE SEGMENT 10/12/2011

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Source: Barefoot Contessa

-To make this recipe healthier I use olive oil to sautee the onions instead of butter and I use a low sodium chicken broth (I’ve also made it with vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
-Don’t have a food mill, don’t worry. I used a food processor to blend the tomatoes and basil in the end. An immersion blender would also work. 

  

Spicy Tuscan Soup 

Adapted from Zuppa Toscana, Olive Garden

Ingredients

  •  2 medium russet potatoes (or 3 small ones)
  • ½ small white onion, chopped
  • 1 pound of Spicy Italian Sausage (in bulk, not with casein) or for you can substitute ground turkey breast and add extra crushed red pepper or for a Vegetarian soup use meatless crumbles instead of sausage
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 ½ cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • ½ cup milk (I used skim but use whatever you have in your house)
  • 4 cups chopped Kale (ripped off the vein)
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

1. Poke holes in the baked potatoes and microwave them for 6-8 minutes (until tender). Set aside to cool.
2. Heat dutch oven to medium high and add onion and sausage to the pan. Cook 5 minutes then add garlic and continue to cook until meat is brown
3. While the meat is cooking rinse and chop the Kale and peel and dice the potatoes
4. Add broth and milk to the onions and meat once the meat is brown
5. Add kale, garbanzo beans, salt and crushed red pepper flakes
6. Simmer for 30 minutes and serve.

Stuffed French Toast with Berries

Brunch for one please!

My friend Brent and I had planned to make a decadent brunch this morning but sadly he came down with an awful cold. I considered just pouring myself a bowl of cereal but being a breakfast and brunch lover I still made the stuffed french toast that we had picked out earlier in the week as I was craving a big breakfast.

I was excited when I went to Target and saw they had Wheat French Bread. Yes, wheat, not whole wheat but the fiber content was better than the white so I felt better about eating a large portion. I also picked up a container of raspberry to top the french toast vs making the strawberry sauce that the recipe suggested. Less work and just as good. While cooking for one can sometimes be no fun I found my morning kitchen session perfect. No one home, windows open enjoying the perfect fall weather, past Cities 97 samplers shuffling on my Ipod and a new pumpkin candle burning in the dining room…pure bliss.

Sina’s Rating 5 out of 5

I would definitely make this again for a few reasons. I liked using a french bread as the base (although I picked out a non crusty one) and I also found the milk, vanilla extract and egg mixture easily absorbable for the bread compared to a heavier egg mixture. Since I love cinnamon I added some to the milk mixture before I dipped the bread which gave it a great flavor and the fresh berries on top were perfect. Very easy, delicious and a healthier french toast breakfast.

Stuffed French Toast Recipe – with my adjustments

Ingredients

12 (1-ounce) diagonally cut slices French bread
1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 (8-ounce) tub reduced-fat cream cheese
2 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large egg whites
2 large eggs
1 tsp cinnamon

Preparation

Cut a horizontal slit through bottom crust of each slice of bread to form a pocket (I cut the bread in thin slices). Combine powdered sugar and cream cheese; stir well. Spread mixture evenly into pockets of bread (I put cream cheese between two of the thin slices).

      Combine milk, sugar, vanilla extract, egg whites, and eggs in a bowl; beat well with a wire whisk. Pour milk mixture evenly over bread slices. Cover and chill 1 hour or until liquid is absorbed (As I was hungry, I fully immersed the bread in the milk mixture for a few seconds then cooked immediately after that vs waiting an hour)

Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray, and place over medium heat until hot. Arrange half of bread slices in skillet, and cook 3 minutes. Turn bread over, and cook 3 minutes or until browned; remove from skillet. Repeat procedure with the remaining bread slices.
I served mine with fresh raspberries and light maple syrup

The Ingredients

Preparation: French bread with the cream cheese filling ready to be dipped in the egg mixture

Crop Share Box #8

What this Box Contained

Cucumbers, Italian Garlic, Summer Squash, Sweet Spanish Onions, Sweet Corn, Watermelon, Melons, Arugula, Edamame, Tomatoes, Red Grape Tomatoes, Orange or Red Ukraine Peppers, Roaster Peppers, Corn, Eggplant, Basil, Potatoes
Pictured Above
From Front Left to Right: Red Grape Tomatoes, Eggplant, Roaster Peppers, Potatoes, Basil
From Back Left to Right:  Edamame, Cucumber, Tomatoes, Arugula, Summer Squash, Orange Ukraine Pepper, Cantaloupe, Corn

New Recipes & Meals I Made

Crop Share Chopped Side Salad

Rating: Sina: 4
Chopped Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, corn off the cob, chick peas, cucumbers and homemade mustard vinaigrette

Omelets for dinner

Swiss cheese, tomato, pepper, spinach and zucchini omelettes with a side of tomatoes with basil and cooked zucchini.

Jicama Cole Slaw and Fish Tacos (see bottom of post for recipe)

These are my favorite fish tacos. I got the idea of making a jicama cole slaw for the top of fish tacos from a restaurant in town called Chino Latinos. The roasted red pepper sauce is also a great touch. You can also add shredded lettuce or cheese to the tacos but we ate them with just the fish, jicama slaw and sauce. I’m disappointed at how they look in this picture because they taste much better than that! Also, I added cherry tomatoes to the slaw this time since I wanted to use them up.
Ratings: Sina: 4, Ryan: 4

Breakfast sandwiches with arugula, tomato, pecorino cheese and an egg on an English muffin.

Potato and Swiss Chard Gratin

The original recipe is from Smitten kitchen and posted on my holiday blog from last year when we made it the correct way (with sweet potatoes). Since I had swiss chard in the garden and extra garlic and scallions I figured I’d make it with my crop share potatoes from the last box and this box
Ratings: Sina: 4 (delicious but not as good as when you make it with sweet potatoes)

Sina’s Fish Tacos (a combination of three recipes)

Baja Fish Tacos

Recipe from Baja Fish Tacos on myrecipes.com
3-4 tbsp taco seasoning
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp orange juice
2 pounds tilapia or mahi-mahi
Flour or corn tortillas
Avocado slices
1 lime: wedged
Directions
1. Combine first 2 ingredients in a medium bowl. Add fish; toss to coat.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add fish; sautee 5 minutes or until fish is done
3. Warm tortillas according to package directions.
I then Served the fish tacos with the jicama slaw, avocados, sauce and have people add what they like.

Roasted Red Pepper and Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Recipe from Mediterranean fish tacos courtesy Rachel ray, 2008
2 roasted red peppers, patted dry
1 cup fat free yogurt
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ cucumber, peeled and grated
Directions: Combine red peppers and yogurt in food processor. Add cumin, 1 clove garlic, zest and juice of ½ lemon, cucumber and process until smooth, transfer to a bowl.
Add to the top of the fish tacos

Jicama Cole Slaw

Recipe from Jicama Slaw courtesy Emeril Lagasse
1 cup fat free yogurt
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp cider vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp chopped cilantro leaves
1 tsp ground cumin1 tsp salt
½ tsp ground black pepper
3 cups shredded or julienned jicama
½ bunch green onions, sliced thinly on the bias
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
Directions: (great side with the fish tacos or you can put it on your tacos)
1. Combine the yogurt, lime juice, cider vinegar, sugar, cilantro, cumin, salt and peppers and whisk to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to develop
2. When ready to serve, combine the jicama, green onions, and red bell peppers in a large bowl and add the dressing. Toss gently but thoroughly to combine. Season with additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve immediately

Food of the Month

I just returned from an eight day trip in the Pacific north west and Canada and while part of September is over it’s still not to late to enjoy this months food. Peppers! They come in many shapes, sizes, colors and spice levels.

The Scoville Heat Scale is a great way to see what level of pepper is best for you.

To start the celebration of the food of the month I made Un-Stuffed Peppers. You may be asking why I made the recipe “unstuffed.” It came down to the size of my peppers. I was planning to make stuffed peppers for dinner but all the peppers I wanted to stuff were too small to fit much filling so instead I mixed all the things you would put in a stuffed pepper together in a dish and baked it. I am eating this dish as I type my blog post and OMG it’s AMAZING! Every year when I make stuffed peppers I just use up what I have in my fridge and that is what this recipe was but the flavors came together perfect. The pepper mix was perfect since my husband and I like a small kick in our dishes.  This is a great dish that we will definitely have again!

“UN-Stuffed” Peppers

Ingredients

  • 2 cups brown rice (cook according to instructions. I did 2 cups of brown rice with 4 cups chicken stock)
  • You could use any combination of peppers. Here is what I used: 7 small Bell Peppers, 1 Banana Pepper, 1 Jalapeno (without seeds), 1 unknown hot pepper from crop share (the dark green one), diced
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, diced
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp Italian Parsley, chopped
  • 3 chicken sausages, cut into slices (you could also sub boca crumbles here for a vegetarian dish)
  • 1 small zucchini (or in my case it was 1/3 of a large one)
  • 2 ears of corn, cook and add only the kernels
  • 2 ounce of cheese (any type of shredded or diced cheese will work)

Directions

  • Cook rice according to directions
  • Stir all ingredients in a big bowl with the cooked rice and mix
  • Grease a 9 x 11 pan and pile ingredients in.
  • Bake at 400 for ~35-40 minutes
Garden Peppers

Unstuffed Peppers – prebaking


…just went and got seconds…time to go.The beauty of this dish is it’s flexibility. Don’t have one of the ingredients or want to add another vegetable, go for it.

What do you do with 12 tomato plants?

Seeing bowls filled with fresh picked tomatoes from my garden makes me so excited to cook. My tomato supply is in peak season and I add about 6 more tomatoes to the bunch every 1-2 days, so what do I do with them all? For starters I eat 2-3 of them sliced up each day after work and was just telling my coworker I’m going to have withdrawals after my garden season is over. We also have enjoyed a few caprese salads thanks to my fresh supply of basil. I was hoping to try making homemade tomato juice this year to use for bloody mary’s during Badger games but I’m still debating this as I’d have to learn how to can (canning is still on my list of things to learn, for now I just make things I can freeze).

There are still plenty of options to use up a lot of tomatoes. I love tomato basil soup but often can’t enjoy it since it’s made with (I’m lactose intolerant). I found this great recipe that I made for dinner and froze in containers to eat this fall. I’m going to make another batch (this time with a small amount of milk) as well since it was so good. I love soup for lunch in the fall and this will be a great treat to remind me of summer.

Roasted Tomato Basil Soup

Source: Barefoot Contessa

 

We had the soup with an amazing side chopped salad of refrigerator leftovers (chick peas, corn off the cob, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers and vinaigrette) and my favorite, Spotted Cow Beer.

I’ve also made 4 large batches of fresh salsa so far this summer.

I use a food processor when I make salsa since it’s much quicker than dicing. I don’t follow a recipe but I made sure to pay attention to what I added this time so I could share.

Sina’s Garden Salsa

First: Add the following ingredients to your food processor: 1/3 of a white or yellow onion, 1 green bell pepper, 2 jalapeno peppers (without seeds), 1 habenero pepper (optional for spice) and 1/2 bunch of cilantro

Next, slice tomatoes in half and add them to the food processor. Hit the pulse button 10-13 times until it’s a good consistency for you. I used smaller tomatoes (around a roma size) and added 14 to this batch.

Voila, you’re done and the outcome is a delicious homemade salsa to use with chips or tacos. This is my husbands favorite!

Next up, homemade marinara sauce to freeze for the fall!

Crop Share Box #7

It’s definitely August. If you take a look back at Box #1 compared to Box #7 you will see the the amount of vegetables we’ve gotten has doubled and the varieties have expanded. Note, this is only half a crop share and a hard one to tell what we got as many things came with one so we each picked items out that we would use.

What this box contained

Green Top Carrots, Cucumbers, Broccoli, Italian Garlic, Summer Squash, Sweet Spanish Onions, Gold Potatoes, Italian Frying Peppers, Eggplant, Sweet Corn, Green Top Gold, Thai Basil, Tomatillos, Sesame Greens, Melons, Zucchini
Pictured above:
From front left: Sesame Greens, Sweet Spanish Onions, Broccoli, Eggplant, Cucumber (yellow), Zucchini, Cucumber
From left on top row: Green Top Carrots, Italian Frying Pepper, Summer Squash

New Recipes

Grilled Cabbage 

Directions: Cut cabbage into thick slices. Top with olive oil, salt, pepper and a generous amount of garlic powder. Place on tinfoil and grill for ~ 40 minutes. Remove and sprinkle with pecorino or parmesan cheese and serve
Ratings: Sina 4, Ryan 4

 

The amazing cooks I know…

I’m blessed to have amazing friends and family in my life who love to cook. Ryan and I have been treated to so many delicious meals that I wanted to start featuring some of the other amazing cooks I know on my blog.

The first installment of my blogs guest cook is Chrissy Keene. Chrissy and I met our sophomore year of college in Park Spring Apartment complex in Madison. We both lived with 4 girls and met Ryan and Sean who lived with three other boys across the hall. She started dating Sean that year and Ryan and I followed the next year. Who would have known that we’d meet our husbands in that building and remain great friends. We are so lucky that they live 10 minutes from us. Chrissy and Sean are both amazing cooks and love to cook together. They throw great parties and always have plenty of fresh, delicious food. They amaze me with their ability to cook without recipes. Sean can marinate the best meat with a random concoction of seasonings and Chrissy always has great vegetable dishes. Below is one of my favorites of hers. I’m not sure where the recipe is from but it’s a melon, mozzarella salad. This is the perfect example of moderation. The picture shows the prosciutto the most since it’s on top but once the dish is mixed their are fruits, vegetables, nuts and cheese. While prosciutto is higher in salt and fat you don’t need to use much of it in a big dish. If you’re like me then you need a little salty cured Italian meat every once in awhile and having it in a salad is the perfect outlet!

Grilled Asparagus and Melon Salad

Source: Giada-Food Network
Chunks of fresh mozzarella, cantaloupe, roasted pine nuts, crisply cooked asparagus and crispy prosciutto crumbles topped with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper.

Philly Cheese Steaks

My husband was reading the USA Weekend insert in the paper back in June and found a “Father’s Day” recipe for Philly Cheese Steak that he cut out for me to make. I was thankful that he contributed a recipe since I’m always asking him what he wants to eat but I was also eating my words because I’ve gotten used to being the meal chooser. I’ve never enjoyed Philly cheese steaks in the past because I find the meat chewy and the sandwich overfilled with cheese so I put off making them until July. This past weekend we enjoyed our first summer weekend at home just the two of us and I wanted to make Ryan something I knew he’d love. I went to the store without my recipe so asked the butcher what cut of meat would work best for Philly Cheese Steaks.  He gave me a few options but said a New York Strip Steak is by far the best for Philly sandwiches so that’s what I bought, a 1 pound New York Strip.

Philly Cheese Steaks

I followed USA Weekends (June 10-12,2011 edition) recipe for the marinade and I let the steak soak in it for an hour before starting up the grill. From there I decided to make my own variation since this recipe called for jarred fried peppers and I had fresh peppers from the garden.

Marinade

Mix: 1 Tbs olive oil, 2 Tbsp A1 steak sauce, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper.

Direction

  • Make the Meat Marinade and let steaks sit in the refrigerator in the marinade for ~ 1 hour
  • Warm the grill to medium high
  • Slice one sweet onion, 1 green bell pepper and 1 large banana pepper.
  • Toss the vegetables with a small amount of olive oil.
  • Place the steak and veggies on a grill plate and grill (Our piece of steak was very thick so I ended up cooking it about 5-6 minutes on each side and I kept the veggies on that whole time. Be careful not to overcook the steak and remember it will keep cooking once you remove it from the grill. Our steak turned out medium which is exactly how we like it).
  • Once your steak is cooked to your liking and the veggies look done remove the steak and veggies from the grill.
  • Thinly slice the steak.
  • Now, the good part. Drizzle two hoagies or brat buns with olive oil and red wine vinegar.
  • Place on grill to toast for 2-3 minutes.
  • Remove, layer on steak and veggies and top with a slice of swiss or provolone cheese (we used swiss).
  • Place back on the grill until the cheese melts.

Serve immediately.

*Side Note: our deli cuts cheese into 1/2 ounce slices so I used two slices per sandwich which = 1 serving of cheese per sandwich.

Honestly, I wasn’t even expecting to like these but I was so surprised because I loved them. I loved the vinegar taste on the bun and the sharp cheese taste over the mix of hot and mild peppers and perfectly seasoned and cooked steak. Definitely a recipe I will be making in again in the future and one I highly recommend for any meat lovers or steak skeptics! It was very easy to prep and perfect for hot days when you don’t want to use the oven. My picture doesn’t even do it justice since I didn’t remember to take my camera out until the colorful veggies were topped with cheese.

Ratings

Sina: 5, Ryan: 5

philly cheese steaks

Food of the Month

I picked my first tomato from my garden last week and was so overtly excited that it’s officially tomato season. While farmers markets and other gardens have had tomatoes fresh for most of July mine are just coming into bloom. Since starting the food of the month I have anticipated using tomatoes and now the time has come! I am so obsessed with tomatoes I don’t even know how to start and can’t even imagine typing all the recipes I have using fresh tomatoes. For one most of the dishes don’t have recipes. Fresh salsa, marinara sauce and tomato soup are things I just whip up and taste as I go. I’m so excited that I have 12 tomato plants this year. I know I’ll have no issue using them and I may even get fancy and try canning some of my salsa and sauce or make homemade tomato juice!

First thing first I want to try to answer a common question that arises.

Are tomatoes a fruit or a vegetable?

This is an ongoing debate and depends on who you ask. Botanists would say they are a fruit because botanically they grow like fruits but the United States Department of Agriculture, horticulturists and most dietitians classify it as a vegetable. I’m not sure how accurate this is but I read this statement online today (also showing the debate has been going on for centuries): “On May 10, 1893, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the tomato is a vegetable and, as such, is subject to import taxes under the United States Tariff Act of 1883.

What’s in a tomato?

One medium sized tomato (3” diameter) has ~ 30-35 calories and is a rich source of Vitamin A and Vitamin C. Tomatoes also contain an antioxidant called lycopene which has been studied for it’s cancer fighting properties. Lycopene protects our cells from oxygen damage which can help white blood cells and may also help prevent heart disease.

Now how to use them. Well if you’re like me then you’ll pick ’em, slice ’em and top them with a dash of salt and pepper or olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I can eat a few tomatoes at a time when they’re in season).
And last but not least…a few great tomato recipes worth listing…

Summer Tomato, Mozzarella and Basil Panini with Balsamic Syrup:

Cooking Light-August 2011
I made these sandwiches for my mom and I when she was in town. While I’ve made MANY caprese panini’s with basil, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella this one was by far the best. The determining factor was balsamic reduction.
Rating: Sina: 5, Becca (my mom): 5
          

Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients

Writer’s Note: I don’t use a recipe when I make bruschetta but here is the gist, measurements may vary a little

  • French or Italian Bread
  • 2-4 tomatoes diced
  • 1-2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ~1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar  (reduced balsamic vinegar also works)
  • 12-20 basil leaves diced (I like a lot)
  • dash of salt and pepper
  • Fresh grated Parmesan cheese

Directions

Slice bread and toast in the oven on broil
Mix tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar and basil and layer on top of bread slices. Sprinkle each with salt and pepper. Grate Parmesan on top and serve immediately. You can always prepare the topping ahead of time and assemble them on bread later if you are bringing it to a party.
Rating: Sina: 5, Ryan: 4.5

Caprese Salad

Slice tomato and fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese and layer every other. Sprinkle with cut up basil and drizzle with olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper and serve
Rating: Sina: 5, Ryan: 4.5

Crop Share Box # 4 and 6

If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted about my crop shares recently it’s because we’ve been on the road. We left the day crop share box #5 arrived so that one was enjoyed by our neighbors. Here’s the update and recipes from crop shares #4 (from June 23rd) and #6 (from July 21st). This months past box has been my favorite so far. We’ve almost used everything in it already! The vegetables were very versatile and easy to add to meals.

Crop Share Box #4 

What this Box Contains

Mini romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, spinach, salad mix, sorrels, kohlrabi, sugar snap peas, broccoli raab, strawberries, iceberg lettuce, scallions, baby white turnips, garlic scapes (curly green in the front) and salad mix in the back

Pictured (from left): sorrels, kohlrabi, broccoli raab, strawberries, iceberg lettuce, scallions, baby white turnips, garlic scapes (curly green in the front) and salad mix in the back

Featured Item: Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes are the long spirals that grow from garlic plants. The top portion of garlic bulbs. They have the same great flavor as garlic and can be used like a garlic scallion. Try adding chopped or diced garlic scapes to spreads, sauteed veggies or on top of pizza and scrambled eggs.

Recipes & Things I made from this Box

Well sadly this box didn’t have a lot of new or interesting recipes. The garlic scapes have been added to dishes here and there including egg salad, scrambled eggs, veggie burgers, salmon burgers and pizza. The strawberries were eaten raw immediately after receiving the box since they were so juicy and flavorful. Per usual the lettuce and salad mix were used for everyday side salads with dinner and for work. Lastly, and sadly, the kohlrabi and sorrels went bad while we were gone before we used them. 🙁

Tofu Stir Fry with Broccoli

I started out by following a recipe from my Super Foods cookbook for this dinner but was short on a few main ingredients so I ended up whipping this up from the things I had on hand.
Ratings: Sina: 2, Ryan: 2 – nothing special but fine to eat for one evening

Crop Share #6 (my favorite so box so far)

What’s This Box Contained (same as what’s pictured)

Pictured (from left to right): arugula, summer squash, zucchini, rainbow chard, sweet Spanish onions, garlic bulb, cucumber, cauliflower, green & yellow beans, new red potatoes and green top carrots

Featured Item: Arugula

Arugula is a spicy salad green that has a peppery mustard flavor. It’s great added into salad or on top of pizza, burgers, sandwiches (especially paninis), sauteed with vegetables or added to soup.

Recipes & Things I made from this Box (so far):

Salmon Burgers (adapted from Cooking Light) with Grilled Rosemary New Red Potatoes & Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash

You can get the gist of these burgers from our high ratings (the highest yet). They were cooked perfectly with great flavor from the honey mustard sauce, onion arugula topping and in the burger patties themselves. I would suggest following the recipes guidelines to make sure you don’t over cook them. Once your grill is heated to medium (ours was at 375) cook them for 3 minutes on each side.
Ratings: Ryan: 4.5 ,Sina: 4.5 ,My Mom: 5

Honey Dijon mustard & onion and arugula mix for topping the burgers

 

Salmon burger with grilled new red potatoes and grilled summer squash, zucchini & cauliflower

Salmon Burger Recipe: Adapted from Cooking Lights Salmon Burger Recipe 2011

Ingredients

  • 1 pound skinless salmon fillets (skin removed) and diced into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp Grated lemon rind
  • 2 Tbsp Parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup diced bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup capers
  • 1 Tbsp diced garlic scape (you could use one garlic clove as well)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 cup arugula, chopped
  • 1/2 cup diced scallions (from crop share box #4)
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 hamburger buns

Directions

  1. Preheat grill to medium
  2. Put 1/2 salmon, 1 tbsp mustard and lemon rind into food processor, blend until smooth. Remove and put in a large bowl. Next, put the other 1/2 of the salmon in the food processor and pulse 6 times or until coarsely chopped. Add salmon to bowl and fold in parsley and next 5 ingredients. Divide mixture into 4 and gently shape into 1/2 inch thick patties
  3. Combine remaining 1 Tbsp mustard and honey in a small bowl. Set aside
  4. Combine arugula and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.
  5. Coat a grill pan with cooking spray and place on the grill for 3 minutes. Turn patties and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until cooked to your preference.
  6. Place 1 patty on a bun and brush the honey/mustard mix on the top of the bun and top patty with arugula mix and serve.

Zucchini Bread:

Source: Cooking Light 2005

Follow the link above. My adaptations: 1/2 the oil (because I ran out), lime zest instead of lemon and 3 times the cinnamon. To top it off I sprinkled a cinnamon crunch on the top. For a very light bread it still had a lot of flavor from the zest and cinnamon.
Ratings: Sina: 3.5, Ryan: 3.5-4 (I think if you look at is as a light bread then a 4.5 but as a zucchini bread compared to high fat breads then a 3.5)

That’s all for now. I still have the Swiss chard, green beans, carrots, cucumber and one onion to use this weekend!

Power Foods

I received a new cookbook for my birthday from my neighbor Greta. The book is from the editors of Whole Living Magazine foreword by Martha Stewart called Power Foods. She knows me well since I love cooking with nutrient dense foods which are the base of their recipes. To give it a test run I made three recipes from the cookbook to bring over for a lunch date with Greta, her mom and baby Matilda.
I have to give Greta credit for making this first dish. She’s the first person I’ve ever met who eats parsley raw. That being said I figured she would love this salad which uses parsley as the base. A big thank you to Greta for loving Parsley because I have now discovered a great recipe. The flavor was unique, fresh, flavorful and fulfilling. A mix of a sharp parsley with sweet tones from the citrus and intensified flavor from the salty olives and capers. I thought the flavors would be good but too strong for me but I was proven wrong and now appreciate this herb much more.

Parsley-Leaf Salad with Pine Nuts, Olives and Orange Dressing

Next up were the open faced tofu tomato sandwiches inspired by the cookbook cover. If you’re like me you stare at a cookbook and dream about the flavor of the food on the cover and finally get to the point where you have to find out what it tastes like. I was pleasantly happy with the results of this dish but would like to see a little more flavor added to the tofu spread. Maybe a fresh herb, more lemon or garlic? Still worth trying and experimenting with for a vegetarian protein spread.

Open-Faced Tomato sandwiches with herbs and creamy tofu spread

 
My last dish choice was for my love of green beans, corn on the cob and tomatoes. I think it will be better once I have heirloom tomatoes from the garden but it was very delicious and easy to make.

Green Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad

My overall favorite dish was probably the parsley salad followed by the tomato sandwiches. I chose to use basil on the top which was great with the tomatoes. Now for the verdict of the cook book so far: two thumbs up. It’s creative and uses familiar foods in new ways and makes adding unique foods to your diet easy.  For anyone who likes to cook new recipes with very healthy foods I recommend trying this book. I’m sure it’s available at most bookstores and I saw it online at amazon.

Grilled Fruit

It’s my first day home after a 10 day road trip to Notre Dame, Racine and Webster, Wisconsin. Our week off was filled with friends, family, a wedding, meeting baby Alexis and of course a lot of good food. We enjoyed family dinners with the Postorino’s, Teskey’s, Eberle’s and Connell’s and ate lots of fish, grilled meals and fruit desserts.

I was lucky enough to overlap a night in Racine with my brother and since everyone in my family likes to cook we made dinner as a group. It was a ton of fun to share the kitchen and see how great of a sue chef my brother has become.

Grilled fruit has been on my list of things to cook this summer so I was very excited for our family dinner of salad, chicken and vegetable kabobs and grilled pineapples and peaches. To start we sliced the pineapple and placed them on skewers and cut the peaches in half. My next thought was to drizzle them with honey since I didn’t want to use butter, which a lot of recipes call for, but there was no honey in the house so we cooked them plain. The results were great since the grill enhanced the flavors of the fresh fruit.  The pineapple was delicious with the chicken and the peaches were enjoyed as dessert. The sweetness was increased and perfect without anything on it. I can’t wait to try other variations with cinnamon or nutmeg!!

Grilled Fruit

  • If you want to try this on your own it’s very simple. Slice up fresh fruit (peaches, pineapple, mangoes, pears and strawberries would all work –along with more options I’m sure)
  • Grill on each side for ~5-8 minutes (or until crisp with grill marks)
  • Remove and enjoy!
  • Try them plain, sprinkled with cinnamon, sugar or nutmeg or over ice cream for a healthy treat!

A Tribute to the Food of the Month – Aaron’s Favorite Turkey Burgers

My brother-in-law shares the same love for cooking as I do and this year for my birthday he sent me his favorite turkey burger recipe for June’s Food of the Month. It was such a thoughtful gift and I was very excited to make this recipe since olives and feta cheese are right up my alley.
I made the burgers this Thursday when our friends Jena and Ryan came over for dinner. Although it’s a big statement I can say they are the best homemade turkey burger I have ever made; and believe me I’ve made a lot. He also sent me a great recipe for homemade french fries which was ironic since at work I just talked about satisfying cravings, specifically french fries, in a healthy way. If you’ve been craving a burger and fries try making them at home with healthier ingredients. Not only will you save money but you’ll save fat and your arteries as well!

Turkey Burgers with Tomato Jam, Olives and Feta

Source: Bon Appetit August 2008

 Oven Fries

     

Ingredients

  • Two pounds unpeeled russet potatoes cut into 1/2 inch sticks
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1.5 tsp cracked coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Course salt
  • I also added some fresh rosemary, chopped

Directions

Toss ingredients in a large bowl and bake at 450 degrees for 40-50 minutes (or until crispy).
Ratings: Sina: 5, Ryan: 3.5 (per Ryan “a 4 if I would have made them crispier”)

Crop Share Box #3

Even though Box number 3 came three weeks ago I didn’t post yet because I had one more dish to make with its contents. This box was filled with greens and very easy to use although during my excited state from getting more vegetables I ate the asparagus and used the rhubarb before I took the picture. Whoopsie. Once again a lot of random salads were made with this weeks share and aren’t listed below. So far my favorite thing about this farm is that they send a lot of lettuce, spring mix and spinach with each box, which means I always have salad ingredients.

What this box contained

Romaine Lettuce, Saute Mix, Salad Mix, Asparagus, Rhubarb, Baby White Turnips (gave to our neighbors), Pea Vine, Potato Onion, Green Garlic and Bok Choi

Pictured Items from Left to Right
Pea Vine, Bok Choi, Green Garlic, Romaine Lettuce
In bag in back: 1/2 Saute Mix, 1/2 Salad Mix
Things I forgot to picture: Asparagus and Rhubarb

New Recipes I made from this box

Soba noodles, tofu and vegetable stir fry

(Source: Power Foods Cookbook)
This dish was a 2 in 1 since it used my bok choi from this box and the broccoli from the box I picked up this week. A few downfalls came with this dish but were more related to my poor job buying the ingredients. First, I realized that I ate both the red peppers that I bought for this dish in salads this week. Then I remembered that I wasn’t able to find buckwheat soba noodles or any soba noodles for that matter. Ours really turned out to be a “rice noodle, tofu and vegetable stir fry.”
Ratings: Sina: 3, Ryan: 3 (we both agreed it needed more vegetables–ahem…the red peppers it called for– but we liked the asian flavors)

Sauteed Greens with Potato Onions

I decided to saute the greens with diced potato onions and minced garlic in olive oil. I then sprinkled on salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Ratings: Sina: 3, Ryan: 2.5

Brisket Birthday Dinner

Yesterday was my husbands birthday so the dinner menu was centered around him, which means one thing, BEEF. While reading my Cooking Light magazine this past month I came across a page showing beef brisket sandwiches that looked amazing. After returning to the page to find the recipe I saw that it was an add from Beef It’s What’s For Dinner. Wandering to their website for the first time I found a basic recipe that was perfect to work off of to make the sandwiches (recipe below). I chose to make them in a crock pot instead of the oven since we were out golfing while they cooked. To go with the beef I made corn with a new butter spread.

Grilled Corn with Roasted Jalapeno Butter

Roasting the jalapeno reduced the spicy kick and the honey and lime zest gave it a great sweet balance (sounds weird but tasted great).
Lastly, we balanced our plate with a salad made with lettuce and spring mix from my crop share, red peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese and an avocado. Topped with my coworkers favorite vinaigrette (if she’s okay with me sharing it I’ll post it tomorrow).
Even though corn is a starchy vegetable I think we did a good job trying to live up to the MyPlate food guide!
It was delicious and enjoyed by all but it didn’t stop there, per Ryan’s request we had chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cake from DQ! I rarely feel like a meal was the perfect amount of food and all worth remaking but this one nailed it. Not too much food a great combination.

Beer Braised Beef Brisket Sandwiches

Inspired and Adapted from a Beef It’s What’s For Dinner recipe
Ingredients

  • 4 pounds of beef brisket – fat trimmed off
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle of beer
  • 1 (12 ounce) bottle of chili sauce
  • Olive Oil
  • 2 onions (chopped into 12 pieces each)
  • Buns
Directions
  1. Rub minced garlic onto beef. Heat oil in a pan and place the beef in the pan and brown it on each side (1-3 minutes per side). Remove beef from heat and season with salt and pepper
  2. Turn crock pot to high and place the chopped onions on the bottom and the beef on top of them.
  3. Mix the bottle of beer and chili sauce and pour over the beef.
  4. Cover and let cook for 4-5 hours.
  5. Remove beef from crock pot and slice thinly against the grain.
  6. Place back in the crock pot on low until you are ready to eat.
  7. Serve with good buns and the sauce on top.

Crop Share Box #2

I realize I have box #3 from our crop share and I haven’t posted about box #2 yet. I just finished up the supplies from box #2 so I can share all my recipes. Most of the vegetables I added to our normal dishes and a lot of it was used for salads. I found the ingredients in this box more difficult to use than the veggies we received in our first box. The Hon Tsai Tai I ended up throwing away since it wilted before I figured out what to make with it.

What this Box Contained

Spring salad mix, Garden herb pack for planting (basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, savory, parsley), spinach, red radishes, asparagus, rhubarb, Egyptian walking onions and green garlic.
Pictured Items from Left to Right: 
BACK: Spring mix, Garden Herb pack, Spinach
FRONT: Red Radishes, Asparagus, Hon Tsai Tai , Green Garlic, Egyptian Walking Onions, Rhubarb
This picture was taken before I split the items with our neighbor so you can see what the size of a full share would look like.

New Recipes I made from this Box

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

Recipes Source: Whole Living Magazine
Ratings: Sina: 4.5, Ryan: 3.5 (he’s a hard critic)
Comments: This recipe was super easy to make. It took me about 5 minutes to prep it and the rest of cook time was for baking. It was delicious: very fresh and not too sweet.

Tex-Mex Salad

-Spring salad Mix topped with grilled seasoned chicken breasts, avocado, diced red peppers & tomatoes, canned no added salt black beans (drained and rinsed), canned no added salt corn (drained and rinsed) and topped with crumbled tortilla chips:
-Dressing: A mix of light sour cream, lime juice, avocado and taco seasoning (I didn’t measure the ingredients)
Ratings: Sina: 3.5 (Ryan wasn’t home for this meal. I had it with my friend Heather)
        

Fresh Egg Scrambles

Before I even write about this let me tell you about my egg scramble morning. My dear friend Brent came over for one of our routine brunch dates. We were really excited to do egg scrambles and diced red potatoes with herbs. We spent about an hour chopping everything before we turned on the oven to hear a constant DING, DING, DING noise. Even after hitting the off button multiple times it still kept coming back. So, we find the oven manual which tells us to turn the oven off. Not knowing how to turn a gas oven off we have to call my husband who’s at a bachelor party and get step-by-step instructions from his very handy friend on turning the gas line off and unplugging the appliance.  We thought about going out for brunch at this point but we were too determined to cook since all our food was chopped and ready to go. So, what comes to my mind but to use the grill.  Of course that didn’t go as planned either since  it wouldn’t heat over 275 (I found out later the gas connection was kinked). Check out the picture below. All I can say is thank you for the Cheez-it’s we bought on an impulse at the store since we had about 3 hours of waiting, cooking, stirring and more waiting before we had our slow cooked egg scrambles, which by the way were amazing. The slow cooking definitely paid off because these were the most fluffy tasting eggs I’ve ever had (although I can’t say I plan to make more eggs on the grill anytime soon).
So what were in the scrambles?
Egg scramble #1: Eggs whipped with skim milk and mixed with chopped green garlic & Egyptian walking onions then topped with sharp provolone cheese
Egg scramble #2: Eggs whipped with skim milk and chopped chives mixed in with leftover white cheese added at the end (not sure the type).
Breakfast Potatoes: Diced red potatoes, chives, herbs, salt, pepper and olive oil.
Rating: Sina: 5 (Ryan once again was gone for this meal)

Food of the Month

I know what you’re thinking it’s June 4th and I’m a little behind on my food of the month. I apologize for my neglect to the blog.  I’ve been outside pulling out bushes, weeding my garden and our summer season of weddings and bachelorette parties officially began last night. So needless to say I’ve been very limited on finding free time to blog but I haven’t forgotten about this months food. After many dinners on the grill due to a broken oven I thought I would dedicate this month (…ahem…the best month of the year…) to turkey burgers. Turkey burgers are so easy to make and can be a healthier alternative to beef burgers. I’m not talking about buying turkey patties and throwing them on the grill. I’m talking about homemade turkey patties. Starting with ground turkey, adding in chopped veggies, cheese and spices, forming them into patties and then tossing them on the grill to cook.  The combinations and varieties you can make are endless which makes them a fun food to cook throughout the summer months.

The first thing to know is what to look for when you buy ground turkey since the varieties at the store aren’t all the same. Frozen ground turkey is usually dark meat and can actually contain skin in it. This type of turkey is just as high in fat as ground beef. I recommend not using this type of turkey. Regular ground turkey, which is labeled as 93% lean is usually part white and part dark meat and can still be fairly high in calories and fat although still less fat than ground beef. Ground turkey breast, is the lowest in fat. This can also be used in recipes but it dries out easily so you may need to add an egg to the burgers. I tend to buy the lean ground turkey for burgers since it doesn’t get as dry but find that the ground turkey breast works well in soups, stews and chili’s.

This past week I decided to make crop share turkey burgers. I chopped up some of the ramps I had left, which by the way I’m obsessed with. If you are ever at a farmers market and see them BUY them. You can add them to almost anything for a garlic/onion flavor. I then added in my leftover chives, some spinach and crumbled feta cheese. We grilled them and topped them with a thin slice of Swiss cheese and served them on a whole wheat bun with a side of corn and asparagus. It was a delicious dinner. The burgers were very juicy and flavorful.

If you prefer to follow a recipe for your burgers try the one I listed below for a start before you get creative with your own combination. The cucumber-feta topping would be perfect on a hot day. My aunt also has an AMAZING hoisin turkey burger recipe that I posted below

Turkey Hummus Sliders

Food Network (recipe suggested by Greta)

Asian Turkey Burgers

Cooking Light 2001 (provided by my Aunt Nancy)
  • Combine 1/2 cup hoisin sauce, 1/4tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp ground Ginger and 2 pounds of ground turkey
  • Shape into 8 patties and grill or broil.

Crop Share Box #1

This is the second year my husband and I have joined a crop share with our neighbors. We have a full share every other week package and our first box came last week. As a new addition to the blog I plan to share my journey cooking through all the unique vegetables that the boxes contain. I’ll share what was in the box, new recipes I try with the vegetables and other information about the vegetables. To give you guys a better understanding of how the recipes tasted my husband I will also rank the taste of recipes. That way you can distinguish which may be worth trying. Our rating scale will be out of 5 stars.
  • 5 stars: Mouthwatering, when can I have it again? Will definitely make again.
  • 4 stars: Very good, a definite recipe to repeat.
  • 3 stars: Tasted good but nothing special, would make a variation of it again.
  • 2 stars: Something was missing but has potential to be fixed.
  • 1 star: Not good, would never make it again.
After the cold and wet spring I wasn’t sure what I would find in my first box. With much anticipation my neighbor Greta and I went together to find our pick up location and vegetables. After splitting things with Greta here is what our share looked like.

Crop Share Box #1

What this box contained

Sunchokes, Parsnips, Ramps, Overwintered Spinach, Black Radishes, Sorrels, Chives, Watercress and Nettles

Pictured Items from left to right
Ramp, Spinach & Watercress (in bag), Sorrels, Chives
Sunchokes and Black Parsnip in front of bag

New recipes I made from items in this box

Fried Sunchoke chips with Rosemary Salt

Source: Epicurious (from Greta)

Rating: 4.5 stars from Sina, 4 from Ryan

      

Potato salad with Chives Recipe edited from recipes my mom made as a kid and online recipes

-Baby Red Potatoes, boiled then cut into 1/2 inch pieces (I used ~5 pounds)
-Chives, diced (~1/2 cup or to taste)
-Light Sour Cream (~1 cup)
-Salt and Pepper to taste (don’t be bashful)
Rating: Sina: 3 stars,  Ryan  2 stars
I love potato salads with a sour cream base but I think I would add garlic and more pepper next time.

Pasta with Ramps and Sorrel

Combine the following ingredients
  • Pasta noodles, cooked
  • Sorrel and Ramps -washed, chopped and sauteed
  • Olive oil
  • Crushed red pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • salt and pepper
Sina: 3 stars, Ryan: 3

Interested in joining a crop share. Check out Local Harvest for farms close to you.

Chocolate Overload

This post is for all the times I’ve been told that since I’m a dietitians I don’t eat dessert or chocolate. No and No. Actually, dietitians have an obsession and love for food and dessert is the cherry on top of it all. When your job is centered around nutrition you are inevitably forced to think about food all day. My love for food makes me wonder what I’m going to eat for dinner while I’m eating lunch. I’m constantly excited to cook something new, eat something different or decide my next recipe to try.

My chocolate overload and new obsession with cake began the weekend of my father in law, Scott’s birthday. Since I love to cook and my husband and I love to host we decided to treat them to a homemade dinner at our house instead of going out. We started with grilled vegetables. This time it was a medley of red peppers, onions, eggplant, zucchini and mushrooms with parsley, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a dash of salt and pepper. This was accompanied with dry rubbed ribs, my moms brown rice pilaf and a healthier version of my friend Erin’s corn bread casserole. Dinner was delicious but I think we’d agree that the most exciting part of the meal hadn’t been tasted yet.

I love baking for Scott because he has a sweet tooth just like me. When it comes to dessert the richer the better! Knowing that Smitten Kitchen is always a great source for recipes I filtered through her cake options until I found the perfect choice, a chocolate sour cream cake with peanut butter cream cheese frosting. Mmm…just reading it makes me want to bake it again. You may be wondering why I’m sharing a cake recipe or you may think the reason I’m writing this post was because it was a lower fat version of cake. Was it low fat? No (although I did make a few changes to make it healthier). Was it AMAZING? That one gets a unanimous yes (even from my husband who rarely wants dessert). The reason I wanted to share this was to further prove “Everything in Moderation” even delicious chocolate cake. It was designed to be a three layer cake but since it was just my husband, mom and Ryan’s parents we only made two layers. My mom and I did the cake in the morning and then layered it with the peanut butter cream cheese frosting before dinner. Then, as if that wasn’t enough we topped it with a chocolate peanut butter glaze. It was decadent: moist, rich and creamy all in one bite. The perfect mix of peanut butter and chocolate. Although mine didn’t turn out nearly as pretty as hers I was very proud of the outcome. For those of you who haven’t been to the Smitten Kitchen blog I recommend checking it out now or clicking on the recipe link below. You won’t be disappointed.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake

Adjustments I made: In place of regular ingredients I used a light sour cream, 1/3 less fat cream cheese and reduced fat peanut butter
 
If you don’t have 3 circle cake pans you can also make it in a 9 x 11 cake pan (which I did the weekend after for my friends fiancee’s birthday. Make the full recipe, pour it in the 9 x 11 pan and bake it for 45 minutes. FYI: since it’s in a 9 x11 pan without layers you won’t need as much of the frosting.

Food of the Month

This months featured food is so sensational that it has a catch phrase; the incredible edible egg (did I get the tune in your head…).  The egg has been a much debated food in the nutrition field. Once looked down upon for its cholesterol content it is now a beloved staple in most households and breakfast menus.  Eggs are extremely nutritious for us. They contain the most bio available form of protein (the highest quality of protein you can buy) and they pack in a lot of vitamins and minerals without a lot of calories. One large egg contains ~70 calories, ~6.3g protein. If you choose to just eat the egg white then you will consume 17 calories and 3.6g protein but you will also miss out on a lot of the vitamins and minerals found in the yolk. They can be enjoyed alone, in a casserole, on a salad, sandwich or in pasta (mmm…carbonara). Eggs play a key role in cooking with their ability to leaven, emulsify and bind. Just as important it is to know how your partner takes his or her coffee it is equally as important to ask “how do you like your eggs?” While I prefer them over easy or poached my husband prefers them over hard or hard boiled

My favorite breakfasts always contain eggs. They are a staple in our refrigerator and never make it to their expiration date. They are a great source of protein and keep you feeling satisfied for longer than most carbohydrate rich breakfasts.  With Mother’s Day less than a week away I wanted to share a scrumptious egg bake dish perfect for a mid morning brunch. This delicious recipe comes from my childhood neighbor Patti. The original recipe is for a cheese and sausage egg bake but I am going to post a vegetarian variation I made last year when I hosted Mother’s Day brunch.  It’s great for entertaining since you make it the night before.

Vegetable Egg Casserole

Serves:  10-12
Make the night before you plan to serve it

Ingredients

  • 12 eggs
  • 4 cups milk
  • 4 slices of bread, cubed
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dry mustard
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1 cup diced roasted red peppers
  • 1 bundle of asparagus cut up
  • 1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup of grated cheddar cheese
  • You can add sausage as desired, sauté before adding

Directions

  1. Beat together the eggs and milk
  2. Break up the bread and layer it on the bottom of a greased 9 x 11 pan
  3. Add vegetables and cheese, salt and mustard
  4. Pour eggs over top of mixture
  5. Refrigerate over night
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for ~1 hour and 15-30 minutes or until it barely shakes in the middle
  7. Let it sit for ~ 5 minutes before cutting and serving
*To make the original sausage and cheese egg casserole saute the sausage and add in place of the vegetables
For another favorite egg dish check out January’s “weekend of food” post to see my poached eggs with manchego cheese, crushed red peppers and prosciutto breakfast. 

Whole Grain Salads

Barley, quinoa and bulgar salads are my absolute favorite sides for dinner when it’s nice out. They are great sources of fiber and easy to prepare ahead of time. I like to make them on the weekends for dinner and use the leftovers for our lunches during the week. The nice thing about whole grain salads is you don’t need a recipe to make a delicious combination and it’s a great way to use up vegetables that have been sitting in the fridge for awhile. Start by preparing the grain of your choice per the box directions: barley, wheatberries, quinoa, bulgar, etc…(I usually cook mine in broth instead of water for added flavor). Next, dice up fresh vegetables and herbs (peppers, green onions, tomatoes, cucumbers, sun dried tomatoes, olives, zucchini, arugula, basil, parsley, thyme, etc…) and add them to your cooled off grains. You can also add beans, nuts, cheese (feta works great) or seeds. Lastly, top this off with dressing. You can use a store bought dressing if you are crunched for time but homemade dressings are healthier and tastier and very easy to make. Start by using a general ratio of about 2:1 for oil to vinegar or a citrus juice like lime, lemon or orange. Then add some fresh or dried herbs or just a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

Here’s the recipe I tried this weekend (minus the pistachios):

Mediterranean Barley with Chickpeas and Arugula

Spring Pasta: Campanelle with Apsaragus and Pecorino Cheese

This months Cooking Light featured a series of spring pastas. While I love pasta with homemade marinara or bolognese sauces I also love the taste of an olive oil, lemon or other herb sauce and fresh vegetables or pancetta. A perfect dish for spring! To start off the series of spring pastas I made the Garganelli with Asparagus and Pecorino Cheese for dinner tonight since it was quick and I didn’t get home from yoga until late.

Ever since I studied abroad in Italy I am obsessed with pecorino romano cheese. For those of you who haven’t tried it it’s a hard Italian cheese made out of sheep’s milk. It has a very sharp and slightly salty taste and is great for grating on dishes. Similar to a Parmigiano Reggiano but better!

Garganelli with Asparagus and Pecorino Romano

Source: Cooking Light – April 2011
My Adjustments to this Recipe:
 
  • My grocery store didn’t have garganelli noodles so I used campanelle noodles.
  • I added two roasted red pepper chicken sausage (slice and sauté with asparagus)
  • I also increased the recipe to two garlic cloves instead of one
  • We topped with crushed red pepper
Vegetarian version: Make original recipe but sub vegetable broth for chicken broth 
 
 
Buon Appetito!

Food of the Month

It’s officially April which means fresh vegetables and fruit will begin to ramp up and carry on through fall. I figured what better time than now to feature one of my all time favorite vegetables, asparagus, since it is in season this time of year. Asparagus is a rich source of folate, potassium, Vitamins A, E and C. Not only is it loaded in nutrients it is also low in calories with six spears providing ~22 calories. Asparagus is a great vegetable by itself and a great color and flavor additive for risottos, pastas and salads. It’s easy to prepare and delicious tossed in olive oil, salt and pepper and placed on the grill or roasted in the oven. The key is not to over cook it. The spears should still have a crunch when you eat them. Here is one of my favorite recipes. Perfect for serving at parties or as a starter for a date night.

Asparagus con Prosciutto (aka prosciutto wrapped asparagus)

There are many ways to make this recipe and most traditional recipes don’t cook the prosciutto. I’ve realized over time that I actually prefer it when the prosciutto is slightly cooked and crispy. A trick I’ve learned from preparing this so often is to blanch the asparagus. Cooking the spears for a short amount of time will help them keep their bright green color. Here is how I make this delicious antipasto.

Ingredients

  • 1 bundle of asparagus, washed with bottom ends cut off
  • ~6-8 thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half lengthwise
  • olive oil
  • black pepper
  • salt (optional, not always needed since prosciutto is salty)

Directions

  • Blanch asparagus in boiling water for two minutes
  • Toss asparagus in ice water immediately after to stop the cooking
  • Wrap each asparagus spear with a thin slice of prosciutto
  • Place each asparagus wrapped in prosciutto on a baking sheet
  • Broil until asparagus is crispy (varies 3-10 minutes depending on how crispy you want them)
  • Lightly drizzle with olive oil and black pepper
  • Serve warm or chilled

Food for thought (better yet for smell…)

Yes, it’s true asparagus can make your urine smell after eating it but not everyone has the gene. If you have to think about if you’ve noticed this before you definitely don’t have it. Being a carrier of this gene I can say there is no doubt you wouldn’t notice the smell. Turns out asparagus contains a sulfur called murcaptan that makes the smell when it’s broken down in our digestive systems.

Coffee and Banana Smoothie

Ever since I talked my husband into buying a Magic Bullet in December I’ve been on a smoothie kick, trying recipes I find in magazines and perfecting my own concoctions. My last Health Magazine featured a Coffee and Banana smoothie that I’ve been wanting to adapt and try. I’ve always loved the creamy combination of peanut butter with bananas and coffee sounded like a nice new way to enjoy one of my favorite fruits. My initial thought was this could either turn out great or disgusting. I was lucky to find it was the latter. Initially I made this one for myself only since my husband doesn’t like coffee but it was so delicious I made a second one for him so I didn’t have to share mine.  It was filling, rich, creamy and caffeinated!  This would be the perfect breakfast before a morning workout or long day of work and I can just picture how great it would be during the afternoon blues when hunger and drowsiness kick in.

I did learn a few things from making it twice back to back.
Number one: Use a frozen banana (I always toss bananas in the freezer if they start to brown or “over ripen” to use in baking or smoothies). I only had one banana in my freezer so the second smoothie had a fresh one. Truly, the one with the frozen banana was noticeably better to both of us.
Two: Chill the coffee before you add it. We have an espresso machine so I made 3 ounces of coffee with espresso beans and then added ice to get to 1/2 cup and chill it quickly.
Three: Choose your sweetener. The original recipe calls for 2 tsp sugar but sugar isn’t my favorite sweetener. You could choose Splenda or Truvia to decrease the calories or a natural sweetener like honey.

COFFEE BANANA SMOOTHIE

Ingredients

  • 1 sliced, peeled FROZEN banana
  • 1 cup soy milk or other low fat milk (I used a light vanilla soy milk)
  • 1/2 cup cold black coffee
  • 1/2 cup of ice
  • 1/4 cup plain low fat yogurt (regular or Greek)
  • 1 packet of Splenda or 1 tsp honey or 2 tsp sugar (Note: if you use a flavored soy milk you may not need to add sweetener)

Directions

Add all the ingredients to a blender, blend until smooth and Enjoy!

Beef Broccoli Stir Fry

The first day back to work after vacation always comes as a shock. The relaxation quickly fizzles and responsibilities, deadlines and workloads accumulate quicker than anticipated. Today was day two back to work for my husband and I and knowing how busy he has been I decided to make a meal I knew he would love.  Let me first explain why I knew he would love this dish. First, you will have to know that I’ve never been a beef lover. My mom doesn’t like steak so we didn’t have it as kids and once I tried it as an adult I wasn’t impressed. I’m a big texture eater and while the flavor of steak is usually delicious I don’t like all the chewing that comes with it. Now, I know what most of you are thinking, “You just haven’t had a good steak before.” I’ve heard this line a million times and I’ve tried many different cuts, flavors and cooking methods.  Nine out of ten times I’m still turned off by the texture and only eat half an ounce (with the exception of a beef tenderloin I had at Manny’s Steak house that melted in my mouth). That being said I don’t cook beef often so my husband has to resort to ordering fancy steaks when we are out to eat. The second reason I knew he’d love my dinner choice was the fresh ginger and Sriracha added to the sauce; two things he loves.

I knew I’d like the flavor of this dish and figured I’d pick out most of the beef but to my amazement I loved it and so did my husband. The beef wasn’t chewy, the broccoli kept the perfect crunch and the flavor was delicious.
In situations when I cook something delicious my first instinct is to call my best friend Rachel to tell her about it (we started a cooking club last year since we both have such a passion for food and I knew she would love this). Well, she works second shift at the hospital so I’m sharing the recipe with my changes (which include doubling the sauce) to my blog followers. You have to try this and tell me what you think.

Beef Broccoli Stir Fry

Adapted from: Cooking Light March 2011

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole grain rice (uncooked)
  • 3 tablespoons dry sherry, divided
  • 3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pound boneless sirloin steak, cut diagonally across grain into thin slices
  • 1 cup lower-sodium beef or chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoon hoisin sauce
  • 2 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chile sauce) or 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and grated + more for the top of your dish if desired
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 cups broccoli (~1 broccoli head), chopped (you can buy the prechopped bag at the store to save time)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions

Directions

  1. Cook 1 cup of whole grain rice according to directions.
  2. While rice cooks, combine 1 tablespoon sherry, 1 tablespoon soy sauce, sugar, and beef. Stir together 2 tablespoon sherry, 2 tablespoon soy sauce, broth, cornstarch, hoisin, and Sriracha.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beef mixture; sauté 3 minutes or until browned. Remove beef from pan. Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to pan. Add ginger and garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
  4. Add broccoli and 1/4 cup water; cook 1 minute. Add onions; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add broth mixture and beef mixture; cook 2 minutes or until beef is thoroughly heated and sauce is slightly thick.
  5. Serve beef mixture over rice. Add fresh ginger and Sriracha to top as desired

Power Granola

I’ve spent the past six days in Rosemary Beach, Florida with my husband and seven other great friends. During the time we were on vacation our lovely puppy got a vacation of her own running through the snow up north, eating pup cups and lots of cuddling by her grandparents. She’s still sleeping this evening from all the exercise (or depression of her parents coming back).
As a small token of thanks I decided to bake something for my amazing in-laws to enjoy. I’ve done most of my usuals for them: muffins, scones and cookies so to change it up I decided to try making homemade granola. Knowing that a lot of granolas are loaded with fat and calories I went to my favorite resource to aim me in the right direction: Cooking Light. The best part about this recipe was I had all the ingredients in my cabinet (with the exception of almonds which I replaced with sunflower seeds). Of course I didn’t follow the recipe verbatim. I doubled the cinnamon and sprinkled in All Spice for extra flavor. This granola was filled with spice and crunch and would be perfect on yogurt or mixed into your morning cereal.

Power Granola

Source: Cooking Light May 2005

      

Food of the Month

Get out your togas because this month we’re going Greek. Rich and creamy are just two words to describe Greek yogurt, which is this months featured food. A few years ago Greek yogurt was a rarity on produce shelves but with the growing attention it’s gotten from health  nuts it has gained popularity. Over the past year I’ve seen more brand available at supermarkets and more competitive prices. This calcium-loaded food contains healthy bacterial cultures that boast digestion benefits. Like traditional yogurt Greek style yogurt is made from fermented milk. It is then strained in cloth leaving a thicker product with the same sour taste. Some of the nutrition benefits are due to the increased concentration of Greek yogurt. It generally contains more live cultures and probiotics. In addition, Greek yogurt is higher in protein and lower in sugar than traditional yogurt and since it contains fewer carbohydrates it is also lower in lactose content (which is great for all of my fellow lactose intolerant readers out there). One 6-ounce container of Chobani nonfat Greek yogurt contains 140 calories and 14 grams of protein per serving which keep me feeling full and satisfied between breakfast and lunch.
Greek yogurt is very versatile so think outside the container. It can be used as a base for dips, sauces or smoothies. Here’s what to know when you head to the stores.
  • Look for a low fat or non-fat variety.
  • The plain flavors tend to be best for dips and sauces and take on the flavor of the herbs or spices added.
  • If you have children you may want to Chobani’s Champions that were developed just for kids. Each 3.5-ounce container contains 100 calories.

Here are a few of my favorite varieties and recipes

Brands

  • Trader Joe’s Greek Style NonFat Yogurt- Honey Flavored
  • Chobani Nonfat Greek Yogurt– Strawberry & Peach flavored or the 2% Fat Pineapple flavored variety (I have yet to see the 0% honey, black cherry or lemon flavors at my supermarket but can imagine I’ll like those too).
  • Fage- comes in a large container with a lid to reseal. Great for making the french onion dip recipe below

Most Recent Dish I’ve made with Greek Yogurt

Bahamian-Spiced Chicken with Yogurt-Cilantro Sauce

Source: Bobby Flay for Health Magazine
Pictured above
**My husband and I both loved the flavor of the chicken. I can imagine it will be even better when we are able to make it on the grill.

Sina’s French Onion Dip

Ingredients (I don’t usually measure but you can’t mess it up)

  • Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt
  • Diced green onions
  • Sodium free seasoning blend (any should work)
  • Small amount of Morton’s seasoning blend

Directions

Mix onions and seasonings into the yogurt to your liking. It was delicious with potato chips!

Pudding Parfaits

Growing up one of my families favorite desserts was pudding. I remember the excitement I had when I opened the refrigerator and saw our colored kids cups filled with pudding and chilling for after dinner.  I felt like it was Christmas morning and I’d run to tell my brother the exciting news. We usually had chocolate, vanilla, banana and pistachio pudding and occasionally my mom would give us the royal treatment and top them with bananas and cool whip. It’s funny how some things never change. I’m still a sucker for pudding dessert recipes and pudding cups and I’ve always loved fat free sugar free instant pudding since it’s low in calories and fat and rich in calcium.
To bring back those great memories I decided to make pudding parfaits for my Valentine’s day date with Greta since she’s pregnant and calcium is a must have for her and baby (and truthfully because I was craving the delectable dessert myself). Knowing my food of the month is chocolate I went on a search for chocolate pudding to realize I only had banana and butterscotch on hand. I chose to make the butterscotch pudding and top our parfaits with banana slices, cool whip and chopped walnuts. They were the perfect balance of smooth, sweet and crunchy to fill us up as we watched The Bachelor. The best part was the total prep took less than 5 minutes and they were guilt free! A great treat for last minute company or a late night sweet tooth.
 

Cinnamon Chip Scones

Sharing recipes is key to expanding your repertoire of cooking abilities. Five years ago I received a recipe that has become a staple in my kitchen. The recipe came from my best friend who got it from her mom who received it from her coworker and who knows where before that. The original recipe is for Cinnamon Chip Scones but once you know the basic recipe you can modify it to make different flavors. I’ve tried apple walnut, pear, dried cherries with white chocolate chips and butterscotch and another new variety this past weekend. Cinnamon Chip are still my favorite but it’s always fun to experiment. Its a recipe you know will satisfy and a popular recipe to share. I know I can say I’ve shared it with at least 10 people if not more!

Cinnamon Chip Scones

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 6 Tbsp cold butter (no substitutes)
  • 1 cup (8ounces) vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp milk, divided
  • 1 cup cinnamon chips
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and cinnamon.
  3. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  4. Combine yogurt and 1/4 cup milk in separate bowl, stir into crumb mixture just until moistened.
  5. Knead in cinnamon chips (or other additives)
  6. On a greased baking sheet, pat the dough into a 9-10 inch circle. Cut into 8 wedges. Brush the top of each scone with the remaining two Tbsp of milk.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown
This past weekend I attempted yet another flavor twist for a Pampered Chef party. Since the people attending were all interested in cooking I knew they would be adventurous so I went with one batch of traditional Cinnamon Chip Scones and a batch of Coconut Banana Chocolate Chip scones.

Coconut Banana Chocolate Chip Scones

  • Add 1 banana sliced, 1/2 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 cup of coconut in place of the cinnamon chips.

 

Breakfast Bar Breakdown

You can find cereal bars on the counters of grocery stores, gas stations and even some coffee shops reminding us that breakfast is an important meal. The question is: Are they healthy? In short, they can be. Having breakfast is the key to having a good metabolism and energy level throughout the day. If you choose wisely a breakfast bar can be a good grab-and-go breakfast option.

Here are some tips on picking out a healthy bar

  • Make sure that the cereal or granola bar you choose does not contain any trans fat.
  • Choose a bar with whole grains as the first ingredients.
  • Be aware of the amount of sugar in the cereal bar you choose. Try to avoid bars with a lot of added sugar as they can turn out to be more of a dessert than a breakfast (Note: Bars with fruit in them will have more sugar since fruit contains natural sugar. Look at the ingredient list to figure out the source of sugar.)
  • Lastly, if you plan to have this be the only thing you eat for breakfast make sure to get one with some protein and probably 200 calories or more so it will keep you full for a longer time.

If you like to cook, try making your own variety.  I usually don’t post recipes I’ve never made but this one looked like a good option and since I’ve never made homemade breakfast bars I thought I would link it in case others wanted to try it too (I’ll definitely let you know how they taste after I make them and please post any good recipes you have).

Homemade Breakfast Bars

A Few Commercial Breakfast Bars & Granola Bars broken down

LaraBar –Peanut Butter Cookie (other flavors available)

  • 220 calories, 18g sugar (32% calories from sugar) , 4g Fiber, 7g Protein
  • All natural, no added sugar and only three ingredients (Dates, Peanuts and salt)
  • Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Vegan, Kosher
  • 1 bar = ½ serving of fruit
  • My Vote: Good Natural Bar choice that has adequate calories and protein to keep you feeling full longer. Higher in fat and sugar but both from natural sources (the peanuts and dates). This is my absolute favorite as it is made from whole ingredients and keeps you satisfied. 

Kashi TLC (Tasty Little Cereal) Cereal Bars- Ripe Strawberries  (other flavors available)

  • 110 calories, 9g Sugar (32.7% calories from sugar), 3g Fiber, 2g Protein
  • Contains 7 whole grains
  • Made with real fruit
  • My Vote: Good option to have before work or in the car to get you started but likely isn’t enough calories to sustain you until lunch. Try pairing it with a glass of milk, piece of fruit, yogurt or nuts if you plan to have it  keep you full until lunch.

Quaker Oatmeal To Go Bars- Brown Sugar and Cinnamon  (other flavors available)

  • 220 calories, 19g Sugar (34.5% calories from sugar) 5g Fiber, 4g Protein
  • 20% of your daily Vitamin A, B6, Calcium and Iron
  • First ingredient is whole grain rolled oats (second ingredient  is high fructose corn syrup)
  • Also, available are Oatmeal To Go High Fiber Bars with 210 calories, 13g Sugar, 4g Protein, 10g Fiber
  • My Vote: More substantial in calories so it will likely last you longer although the second and third ingredients are added sugars. They are a dense bar and feel more like a meal and they can be heated and taste good warm. If you are going to choose this one I’d recommend going with the High Fiber version since it contains less sugar and more fiber.

Nutri-Grain SuperFruit Fusion Flavored Cereal Bars-Cherry Pomegranate (other flavors available)

  • 130 calories, 13g sugar (40% calories from sugar), 3g Fiber, 2g Protein
  • First ingredient is whole grain oats then whole wheat flour
  • Contains Antioxidant rich fruits
  • My Vote: Good option before work or in the car to get your day started. Also, a great option for a mid morning or afternoon snack. Like the Kashi TCL Bar they likely will not supply enough calories or protein to keep you energized until your next meal. Try having some mixed nuts, a piece of fruit, glass of milk or a yogurt along with it.

Fiber One Bar- Oats &Chocolate (other flavors available)

  • 140 calories, 10g sugar (28.5% calories from sugar), 9g Fiber, 2g Protein
  • Great source of Fiber and made with whole grains
  • Contains the least sugar compared to the other bars shown today but most has been added and is not from a natural source such as added fruit.
  • ~140 calories, 2g Protein, 9g Fiber, 10g Sugar
  • My Vote: A great option for people with a sweet tooth as it tastes like a candy bar or cookie. This bar also packs in a lot of fiber without a lot of calories and will keep you full longer than some other bars on the market. I will warn people that the fiber used makes some people feel gassy. Try half a bar first before consuming an entire bar in one sitting to see how you feel.

Spicy Tuscan Soup

The thermometers in Minneapolis hit record below zero temperatures this week so homemade soup was a must. This soup recipe was given to me by a coworker and originally an Olive Garden soup but I adapted it to be healthier, heartier and in my opinion, more flavorful. I expected it to taste good but was shocked at how amazing it turned out. It’s simple yet spicy; hearty yet not too filling; creamy yet not fattening and yes…it contains Kale :). I made it with meat but you could easily make it vegetarian by substituting meatless crumbles.

Spicy Tuscan Soup

Adapted from Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana
Servings: 6-7 (depending on your bowl size)

Ingredients

  • 2 medium russet potatoes (or 3 small ones)
  • ½ small white onion, chopped
  • 1 pound of Spicy Italian Sauage (in bulk, not with casein). For a Vegetarian soup use meatless crumbles instead of sausage
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 5 ½ cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • ½ cup milk (I used skim but use whatever you have in your house)
  • 4 cups chopped Kale (ripped off the vein)
  • 1 can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Directions

  1. Poke holes in the baked potatoes and microwave them for 6-8 minutes (until tender). Set aside to cool.
  2. Heat dutch oven to medium high and add onion and sausage to the pan. Cook 5 minutes then add garlic and continue to cook until meat is brown
  3. While the meat is cooking rinse and chop the Kale and peel and dice the potatoes
  4. Add broth and milk to the onions and meat once the meat is brown
  5. Add kale, garbanzo beans, salt and crushed red pepper flakes
  6. Simmer for 30 minutes and serve.

A Weekend of Food

Cold winter weekends always make me want to cook. This weekend my cooking escapades started with a fabulous brunch with my dear friend Brent. We started by making homemade hash browns; a first for both of us. We then made a poached egg dish with prosciutto, manchego cheese and crushed red peppers layered on a piece of toast: replicated from an entree at my favorite breakfast restaurant in Madison, Marigold Kitchen(If you are ever visiting you have to stop!).

Poached Eggs with Prosciutto, Manchego and Crushed Red Pepper

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs per person
  • 2 thinly sliced pieces of sourdough bread, toasted per person
  • 2 slices Prosciutto per person
  • ~1/4 cup or less of Manchego cheese, shredded per person
  • Crushed Red Peppers to top

Directions

  • Poach Eggs
  • While eggs are poaching, toast bread
  • Sautee prosciutto for 1-2 minutes until warm
  • Layer your toast with prosciutto, then eggs, shredded cheese and top with crushed red peppers
  • Serve
My next kitchen endeavor was to prepare Sunday night dinner. After a very relaxing and productive weekend I thought my husband and I could use a good home cooked meal. Knowing the pork chop recipe I was going to make (Cuban Pork Chops with Mojo Source: Guy’s Big Bite- Food Network) I grabbed our Brussels sprouts and squash out of the refrigerator and put my thinking cap on. What should I do with my vegetables tonight? My inspiration for the Brussels sprouts came from the leftover prosciutto and manchego cheese from brunch. For those of you who think Brussels sprouts are bland think again.

Brussels Sprouts with Prosciutto

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 pound Brussels Sprouts (stems trimmed off and cut in half)
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 thin slices of Prosciutto, diced (Pancetta or bacon would also work)
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
  • 1/8 cup white wine
  • 1-2 Tbsp shredded Manchego or Parmesan cheese

Directions

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add olive oil
  2. Add Brussels sprout and saute for 3 minutes
  3. Add water and cook for 3 more minutes (I covered my pot to slightly steam the sprouts)
  4. Add prosciutto pieces and garlic and continue saute for 5 minutes
  5. Reduce heat and add lemon juice and white wine. Scrape the bottom of the pan to get the flavors off and let cook for a few more minutes or until liquids have dissolved and Brussels sprouts are tender
  6. If desired, add shredded cheese to the top
     
Next, I had the task of seasoning the squash. Roasting is my favorite way to prepare squash (really most vegetable for that matter). Cinnamon and curry are my go to flavors for this starch and since I was in a creative mood I figured why not try mixing the two. Here’s what I came up with.

Curried Butternut Squash

Ingredients

  • 3 cups of butternut squash, cubed (I used one full container of the peeled and cubed butternut squash sold at Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Nutmeg
  • 2 tsp Curry Powder
  • Dash of salt and pepper

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Place squash and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and toss
  3. Put the squash in a 9 x 13 pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until squash is tender when a fork is inserted
After watching a lot of football this weekend my mind was drawn to the colors on my plate and the upcoming green vs orange showdown (for those of you non-football followers my Green Bay Packers play the Chicago Bears this weekend for a spot in the Superbowl). I hope the game is as good as this meal was. I was in complete bliss the rest of the evening and reminded that a good meal in with family is priceless.

Cuban Pork Chops with Mojo

Source: Guys Big Bite-Food Network

Food of the Month

The coldest week of the year is about to commence and this month’s whole grain, fiber-rich food will keep you warm and full. If you haven’t guessed it yet; the food of the month is oatmeal.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and oatmeal is the perfect food to make morning eating easy, quick, savory and healthy at approximately 140 calories per cup. It’s a great source of soluble fiber which helps lower blood cholesterol and prevent heart disease so before you hit the snooze alarm read on to learn a variety of flavors and different ways to eat this delicious food.
When it comes to a bowl of oatmeal there is something for everyone. You can choose from old fashioned, quick cooking or steel cut oats as your base. Next, consider what you are craving…crunchy, smooth, sweet??? For a crunch sprinkle in chopped walnuts, pecans or the Omega-3 rich flax seed. For smooth and savory flavors toss in a Tbsp of peanut or almond butter. To please that sweet tooth try fresh, frozen or dried fruit or try topping your oats with honey and ground cinnamon  (it adds flavor without calories). The combinations for this breakfast dish are endless.

Here are My Current Oatmeal Favorites

Instant Oatmeal: Trader Joe’s Organic Instant Oats & Flax Oatmeal: A perfect combination of smooth oatmeal with flax seed to add crunch and a nutty flavor.
Add ins: Frozen blueberries and soy milk: 3 ounces of soy milk added to my instant oats gives me a creamy cereal and the frozen blueberries are my go to in the winter (peaches and pears are also favorites of mine when they are in season).
Coffee Shop Oatmeal: Caribou’s Plain Seven Grain Oatmeal made with Soy Milk: (with cinnamon and nutmeg on top): Caribou did it right with the addition of their morning hot cereals. Their oatmeal balances crunchy and smooth in one bowl.

OATMEAL RECIPES

Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins– Cooking Light

Oatmeal Pancakes – Cooking Light

These pancakes are divine and remind me that whole grain pancakes can give just as big of cravings as the childhood pancakes my mom made. Even children will love this breakfast dish. Note to the cook: I recommend doubling the cinnamon or adding some nutmeg for more flavor. Lastly, to top the dish off I recommend my peach compote.

  • Peach Compote: Add 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup sugar to a sauce pan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Next, add 1-2 cups of frozen peaches and let simmer for 5-10 minutes or until peaches are soft. Lastly, add 1-2 Tbsp all purpose flour to help thicken the sauce. Enjoy on top of your oatmeal with maple syrup.

Our Christmas

My family is filled with people who love to cook and when we go home we’re always treated to great food. My Aunt Nancy knows how to cook everything, from traditional Italian food (my dad’s family is 100% Italian) to wholesome vegetable dishes from her garden. Then we have my mom and I who both love great food and new recipes. We’re also graced with my brother’s fiancee, Sara, a culinary school grad and professional pastry cook. After much deliberation, we decided to split cooking honors on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Today, Christmas Eve, Sara undertook the pivotal task of making a traditional four course Italian meal. Assisting is my dad, an eager culinary pupil, and my brother who has turned into our resident sous chef. Below they are seen creating the Butternut and acorn squash ravioli.

     
My dad’s favorite meals consist of many courses, conversation, and wine. My two cousins, Maddi and Emily, are vegetarians so we have both meat and veggie dishes tonight.

Our Christmas Eve menu:

Antipasti

  • Plate of Italian Meats, Cheeses and Olives from Tenuta’s (a great Italian market in Kenosha, WI; definitely worth a trip).
  • Winter Vegetables Panzanella (Italian bread salad)

Primi Piatti

  • Squash ravioli with butter sage sauce

Secondi Piatti

  • Braciole (Round steak flattened then layered with prosciutto, pine nuts, mozzarella and raisins rolled up, browned and simmered in marinara sauce for 6-8 hours)
  • Stuffed Peppers for the Vegetarians

Dolce

My mom, Aunt Nancy, Maddi and I will have our turn in the kitchen tomorrow, Christmas Day. In order to spend Christmas with friends and family we brined the turkey and prepped our dishes today. Here is our list of sides:

Curried Cauliflower with Capers Source: Cooking Light

  • Recipe changes: doubled the curry powder

Swiss Chard and Sweet Potato Gratin Source: Smitten Kitchen 

  • Recipe changes: substituted skim milk for heavy cream

Corn Bread and Broccoli Rabe Strata Source New York Times

   
MMmmm…I can’t wait to eat. May your holiday be filled with family and finger-lickin’, lip-smackin’, melt in your mouth food just like mine. Buon Natale from the Postorino/Teskey/Reeves family.

Boeuf Bourguignon

My best friend Rachel and I both have a love for cooking but we live in different states so we rarely get to cook together. Luckily, every Christmas we take a day off for a long weekend together.  This year we decided to tackle Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon recipe. After patting the beef dry, chopping, browning, baking, mixing, baking and then sautéing the mushrooms and onions we were set.

At about the 30th step and an hour in we started to wonder if this was going to be worth all the effort. A few hours later as the smell filled the house our confidence in this dish grew. While this isn’t a light recipe nor was it a quick and easy recipe it was definitely worth it. I have never been a big a beef eater since the texture isn’t my favorite but this was perfect. So for the once a year I am up for a good comfort stew I think I’ll make it again.  If you have the time and a good cooking partner (because you’re in the kitchen for awhile) I highly recommend tackling the iconic Julia Child’s recipe.

Beef Bourguignon

The video they have helped explain a few of the steps to us.

Food of the Month: Chili

I thought I would start a food of the month and what better way to start then with a warm meal for this cold month of December. Chili is one of my favorite things to make since I love spice, cilantro, soup, beans and vegetables and chili mixes all of that together. Chili can be a very healthy meal since it’s loaded with  tomatoes, vegetables and beans. Try to avoid loading it with sour cream, cheese and chips. I usually add a small amount of light sour cream or I add a few slices of avocado and cilantro. One great thing about chili is you can serve it to almost anyone since you can make it vegetarian, gluten free or dairy free very easily. There are so many types of chili and I love trying new recipes. Since I love spice I usually end up adding extra jalapenos, chili peppers or chili powder then the recipes calls for.

 Here are a few I love. I hope you find them as tasty as I do. Let me know what you think!

Southwestern Chili

Source: Cooking Light March 2005
I just made this recipe for friends that love spice like my husband and I do. It was dynamite and I highly recommend it. I used Andouille sausage in place of the Cajun smoked sausage and ground bison in place of the ground sirloin

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili (Vegetarian)

Source: Cooking Light October 2005
This is a fun way to have the flavor of chili with the taste of sweet potatoes. My friend Beanie made this recipe for Ryan and I and we loved it. I’m going to dedicate this one to Kristen Angel since she asked for vegetarian recipes on my blog and I think she’ll like this vegetarian twist to chili!)

Chili Con Carne

Source: Cooking Light January 2010
My husband made this recipe for a group of people coming over to watch football last winter. This Texas style  chili packs flavor without beans. This was the first chili I can remember that I ate without beans. I really enjoyed the taste of the beef and flavor of the base. It was a great change up to how I usually think of chili.

Turkey and Bean Chili

Source: Cooking Light September 2010

I love this recipe because it’s quick and easy. I’ve made it following the recipe exactly and I’ve also done it with the addition of bell peppers since I had them left over from my garden.

Chicken Chili Recipe

Source: My dear friend Claire
This was the first chili I ever made and my go to for a few years before I started experimenting with new chili recipes.  I still love the flavor of it and the fact that it’s a chicken chili without cream. The marinaded chicken adds a lot of flavor.

Ingredients

  • 14 oz can of black beans (drained – I use the no added salt canned black beans)
  • 1 can red beans (drained)
  • 1/2 can refried beans
  • 29 oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • Chipotle marinade
  • 4 Chicken breasts
  • 1 Red pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Green pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Jalapeno pepper (chopped)
  • 1 Yellow onion (chopped)
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 1 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 Tbsp chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp salt

Directions

  1. Marinate the chicken in the Lawry’s marinade (for at least 30 minutes) and cut into chunks.
  2. In skillet add olive oil and brown chicken.
  3. Remove chicken from pan once cooked.
  4. In same pan saute onion, red and green peppers and garlic.  In large pot add chricken broth, red and black beans and tomatos.  Stir.
  5. Add chicken and 1/2 can of refried beans.
  6. Add seasoning.
  7. Let simmer as desired.  Ready when heated.