Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pumpkin Pie Baked Quinoa

There's a chill in the air now.  The sun is shining, the wind is blowing gently, and the brightly colored autumn leaves are swirling in the sky.  I'm inside snuggled up with my sweet baby thinking there's no where else in the world that I'd rather be.  Like most Americans, I'm craving pumpkin this time of year.  Why not start this beautiful fall day with a warm bowl of Pumpkin Pie Baked Quinoa?  I think I might.
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 can pumpkin
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 TBS vanilla extract
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  1. In a small pot, combine 2 cups water and 1 cup quinoa.  Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and cook about 15 minutes, until the quinoa is tender and has spiraled out.  Allow the quinoa to cool. (This step can be done a day ahead.  Prepare the quinoa and store the in the refrigerator until ready to prepare the pumpkin mixture.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, make the pumpkin mixture.  In a large bowl, combine the eggs, milk, yogurt, vanilla extract, brown sugar, maple syrup, salt, and pumpkin pie spice.  Add the nuts.
  4. Once the quinoa is cooled, add to the pumpkin mixture and stir well, making sure all the quinoa has been coated.
  5. Grease a 9x13 pan with coconut oil.  Add the quinoa mixture and bake for 40-45 minutes, until the quinoa is set and is golden around the edges.
  6. Serve warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon, a drizzle of maple syrup, or some toppings of your choice, such as raisins or extra nuts.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Poached Eggs


      I don't really like eggs.  Weird, I know. I love the idea of eggs.  Something about the sound of bacon and eggs with a side of toast and maybe some potatoes sounds so delicious and comforting.  As if that would be the perfect way to celebrate a lazy Saturday morning.  Everyone seems to like them, too.  I feel like a breakfast outcast, but even the smell if them turns my stomach.

      When I was in college doing my student teaching, my best friend and I stayed at her Nonna's house.  She treated us like royalty and cooked every meal for us.  The only problem was (insert dramatic music here) Nonna liked to cook eggs for breakfast.  The first morning she made poached eggs, I was so nervous I would hate them.  I'm the type that would just swallow them, say thank you, and eat them every day for the next 3 months without telling her I didn't like them just because I would hear my mother's voice whispering in my ears, "Just be thankful she's making you breakfast and letting you stay here."

      I was hesitant as I pulled my egg-covered fork up to my lips, and wow! Was I surprised!  It was like nothing I've ever tasted before!  They were laid beautifully on top of a thick slice of sourdough bread drizzled with olive oil ("Italian style," as Nonna always said when something either had olive oil or Parmesan cheese on it.), and the bread soaked up some of the salty water along with the rich yolk, making a beautiful medley of simple breakfast favors.




2 thick slices of sourdough bread (Italian or whole wheat bread is delicious, too)
4 eggs
1/4 cup white vinegar
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

  1. Fill a medium sized pot with water, the vinegar, and about 1 tablespoon salt and bring to a boil over high heat.
  2. Turn the heat down to a medium-low setting.  (On my electric stove top, it's number 2.)
  3. Let the water come down to a simmer and crack the eggs into the water.
  4. Set the timer for 4 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, cut your slices of bread and drizzle generously with the olive oil.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, remove the eggs form the water and lay on top of the bread.  Add 2 spoonfuls of the cooking water over the eggs so the bread soaks it up.  Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mema's Sauce

Okay, so I have a confession.  I made this sauce two weeks ago, typed up the recipe, but couldn't seem to post it.  Even though it's a fairly basic recipe, I felt like this was Mema's "secret."  However, I started this blog to keep a record of the memories she's made for me and recipes she's given me so time can't steal them away.  I've been going back and forth trying to decide what to do when my husband encouraged me to share this recipe.

Mema was famous for her sauce and meatballs.  She would typically make them when we were having a family gathering.  The smell of it cooking always transports me back in time.  After working all afternoon to prepare dinner for us, Pop-Pop would tease Mema by telling everyone that the meal was going to be delicious all because he walked in and stirred it.  She would laugh and get so angry with him, as though we really believed his quick stir of the wooden spoon made all the difference.

Mema usually served it with Rigatoni, and I loved how the big, tube-like shape would scoop up so much of her delicious sauce.  Mema and Pop-Pop remind me every time I'm making it to use the Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes with basil, so I'll remind you too - "Use the Tuttorosso tomatoes!  It's what makes the sauce so good!"
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup wine (white or red)
2 to 3 large cans of Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes with basil
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp oregano
3/4 tsp garlic powder
3/4 tsp onion powder
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the onions, stirring occasionally, and cook until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes, until the garlic begins to brown.  Keep an eye on the garlic so it doesn't burn!
  2. Pour in the wine and allow to simmer for about 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cans of sauce, salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Use a little water to rinse the extra sauce stuck to the sides of the can, and pour into the pot.  Stir to mix, cover, and bring to a slow boil.  This will happen very quickly, so don't leave the kitchen just yet!
  4. When the sauce begins to bubble, turn the heat to low and allow to cook for at least 1 hour, but can be left to simmer for a few hours.  Be sure to stir the sauce occasionally!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower

My mother-in-law first made this recipe about a year ago, and everyone in the family polished it off before I could even go back for seconds!  Now when I make them, my husband (who is not a veggie-lover) starts picking at them before I get them off the baking sheet.  The garlic sweetens a little and the Parmesan cheese adds a bit of saltiness to each bite.  They are perfect as a side to any dinner but can also be munched on left over as a snack.
1 head cauliflower, cut and rinsed
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemon, juiced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt
freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Spread the cauliflower on a baking sheet with the garlic.  Pour the lemon juice on it and drizzle a little olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, then toss all together.
  3. Bake for 20 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over cauliflower.  Bake for an additional 5 minutes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe from The Cookie Bible.
These are honest-to-goodness the best darn chocolate chip cookies ever!  People rave about them wherever I take them.  Unfortunately, I can't take any sort of credit for this recipe.  The only time I've altered it is when I'm in the mood to try to make them a little healthier.  Rather than doing all white flour, you can do 1 cup all-purpose flour and 2/3 cup whole wheat flour - you won't even taste a difference.
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
12 TBS (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg
12 oz. Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and vanilla extract.  Add the egg.
  4. Gradually mix in the flour mixture to the butter mixture.  Add the chocolate chips.
  5. Drop on a baking sheet in tablespoon size amounts, spreading about 2 inches apart.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown.  Cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Sunrise French Toast

My mom always used to put orange juice in her French toast.  I never gave it much thought, and it wasn't until recently that I realized it was a more unique ingredient.  As my husband put it, this French toast tastes "exotic."  You'll feel like your on a tropical vacation while enjoying these.  I could almost hear the wind blowing through the palm trees and the waves lapping up on the shore as we ate our breakfast.
6 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1 TBS vanilla extract
1 loaf Italian or Portuguese bread (the denser the bread, the better)
cinnamon
  1. Whisk together the eggs, milk, orange juice, and vanilla extract in a large bowl.  Slice the bread and add to the egg mixture.  Allow the bread to sit until the egg has completely soaked in, about 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the bread slices and the density of it.
  2. Arrange the French toast on a hot griddle with butter and sprinkle with cinnamon.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Orecchiette with Chicken Meatballs

Recipe adapted from Giada's Kitchen by Giada DeLaurentiis.
I've made this dinner for a variety of guests ranging from the age of 1 to 81, and it's pleased even the pickiest of palates.  Orecchiette with Chicken Meatballs is great for entertaining since it can be made ahead of time.  All your left to do is boil the water and cook the pasta when you're ready to eat!
1 pound orecchiette pasta
1/4 cup plain bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, basil, or a combination of both
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 TBS milk
1 TBS ketchup
3/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
1 pound ground chicken
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 cups chicken broth
4 cups (2 pints) cherry tomatoes, halved
8 ounces pearlini (small mozzarella balls)
chopped basil
  1. In a large bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley or basil, eggs, milk, ketchup, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Add the ground chicken and mix together.  Form the chicken into small meatballs.
  2. Use a large skillet, such as a Dutch oven, and heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken meatballs to the oil and brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side.  Transfer the meatballs to a plate.  Do not drain the oil or brown bits from the bottom of the pan!
  3. Add the halved tomatoes to the hot oil and cook for approximately 2 minutes, until the tomatoes begin to soften.  Add the the wine and cook for an additional 2 minutes, then pour in the chicken broth.  Bring the liquid to a simmer and add the chicken meatballs back into the pan.  Turn the heat down to low and cook about 20 minutes.  (If you're making this ahead of time, turn the heat off the pan after 10 minutes.  Turn the heat back on low when you begin to heat the pasta water.)
  4. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Cook the pasta 2 minutes less than the package directions.  Add the cooked pasta to the meatball mixture and finish cooking in the broth.
  5. Sprinkle additional basil across the top and serve with the pearlini on the side along with extra freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Chipotle Mayo

Recipe from Bobby Flay.
Entertaining is one of my favorite things to do.  I look forward to planning the menu as I think about what my guests would enjoy.  When Superbowl rolled around this year, I wanted to make sliders with a special "kick."  I found this recipe on the Food Network website.  I completely trust Bobby Flay when it comes to Southwestern flavors so I knew this would be a hit.  This Chipotle Mayo instantly became one of my favorite condiments.  Smokey bacon compliments the spicy mayo fabulously.  I typically double this recipe as it keeps for a long time without spoiling.
1 cup mayo
2 chipotle chiles, packed in adobo sauce
1 TBS adobo sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
salt
freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined.
Some uses for Chipotle Mayo:
  1. BLT, as shown above
  2. Cheddar burgers or sliders
  3. Turkey wrap with bacon, lettuce, and Pepper-Jack cheese
  4. Roast beef sandwich with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and cheddar cheese
  5. Chicken, roasted pepper, and mozzarella panini
  6. Baked on tilapia

Friday, April 13, 2012

Raspberry-Lemon Muffins

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma-Food Made Fast: Baking.
I have an affinity for lemon.  There's something about it's clean, fresh taste which brightens the flavor of whatever it's paired with that I just can't resist.  I love how the lemon zest in these muffins enhances the natural sweetness of the raspberries.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 eggs
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 cup milk
6 TBS unsalted butter, melted
1 TBS lemon zest
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and line a muffin pan with 12 paper cups, or spray with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together the eggs and sugar.  Add the milk, butter, and lemon zest and blend.
  4. Pour the wet ingredients in with the dry ingredients and gently mix with a spatula or dough whisk.  Fold in the raspberries.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among 12 muffin cups.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow the muffins to cool in the pan for an additional 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Herbed Potato Gratin

Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma.
One of my favorite stores has always been Williams-Sonoma.  I could spend hours there just walking around, looking and learning about all the tools.  When I leave that store, I typically have the urge to cook up a storm.  The recipe cards have fabulous, mouth-watering dishes, but I usually don't take them due to the fact that they require specialty (expensive) ingredients only found there.  On one of my shopping expeditions, I saw this recipe and thought it would make a fancy side to our Easter dinner.  Much to my surprise, I could find all of the ingredients at the grocery store.  I was able to throw these together in about 30 minutes.
3 large baking potatoes, about 2 1/2 pounds, peeled and sliced to about 1/8 inch thickness
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 bay leaf
freshly ground black pepper
6-8 ounces Gruyere cheese
chives (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place 8 ramekins on a baking sheet.
  2. Prepare the potatoes and divide the slices evenly among 8 ramekins.
  3. In a small sauce pan, combine the heavy cream, thyme, salt, bay leaf, and pepper.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Once the cream is bubbling, remove from the heat and throw away the bay leaf.  Add a little more than half of the cheese, about 4-6 ounces stirring to combine and melt.  Divide the cream mixture evenly over the potatoes, about 1/4 cup per ramekin.  Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top of the potatoes.
  4. Bake the potatoes until tender and the cheese is browned, about 35 to 40 minutes.  Let stand for 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with chopped chives as a garnish.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Recipe from The River Cottage Family Cookbook.
I have always been terrified of making bread with yeast.  I was worried that the yeast wouldn't work, the bread wouldn't rise, and my ingredients would go to waste.  The picture of the bread in this cookbook made me crave homemade raisin bread and I was left with no choice but to attempt it.  Surprisingly, it was fairly easy to make.  The only specialty tools I used were a meat thermometer and my hands.  I suggest you try it.
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
2 1/4 tsp yeast
3/4 cup raisins
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup warm milk
1/2 cup hot water
1 egg
2 generous TBS orange marmalade
  1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, yeast, raisins, and cinnamon.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and measure out 1/2 cup water.
  3. In a second bowl, mix together the egg, milk, and hot water.  Check the temperature with a thermometer.  It should come to 100 to 110 degrees.  If it's too cold, add a little more hot water.  If it's too warm, allow to cool.
  4. Pour the warm milk mixture over the flour mixture, and add the orange marmalade.  Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until combined, then turn onto a floured work surface and knead the dough until all ingredients are well incorporated.  If you push your finger in the center and the dough bounces back, it's ready.  Form into a dough ball and place back in the large bowl.  Cover with a towel and allow to rise in a warm place, away from drafts, until the dough doubles in size, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  6. Push your fist in the center, then knead gently.  Form the dough into a long, thick rope.  Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray and place the dough in the pan so it touches the ends.  Allow to rise an addition 25 minutes.
  7. Place in the center of the oven and bake for 12 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375 degrees and bake for an additional 12 minutes.  Remove the loaf from the pan and allow to cool on the cooling rack.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Parmesan Crisps

Recipe from Everyday Pasta by Giada De Laurentiis.

My husband and I went on vacation to Cancun a few years ago.  We found ourselves returning to the same restaurant multiple nights just to have the salad they served complete with Parmesan Crisps.  Ironically, when we returned home, I received a phone call from Mema saying she made these while I was away.  I had to try them!  I make these often since they are the perfect substitute for croutons.  They are salty and crunchy, but allow me to avoid the calories, preservatives, and trans fats that are so often found in the store-bought brands.

Parmesan Crisps look fancy and delicate propped up on a side salad, and our dinner guests always seem to be impressed.  The best part is, they can be thrown together at the last minute.  Use shredded Parmesan cheese in order to give the crisps a lacy appearance.
Parmesan cheese, shredded
freshly ground black pepper
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Add a tiny handful of the shredded Parmesan cheese to the baking sheet and spread out into a small disk.  Sprinkle a little freshly ground black pepper over the cheese.
  3. Bake for 10 minutes, until the crisps are golden brown.  Allow to cool on the baking sheet, then gently place on your salad.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Easter's Coming...Ready or Not!

Post written by my wonderful husband.
Easter is quickly approaching.  It's time for family gatherings, the Easter bunny, egg hunts, and jelly beans!  But do you know why we celebrate Easter?  Have you stopped and thought about the origin of this Springtime holiday?  People around the world are preparing their Easter menus, but are they preparing their hearts?

I believe that the answer to these questions can be found in the Bible.  The Bible conveys a message about Easter that is far too important to be ignored.  However, before I share this message, I need to first tell you about the events that led up to Easter.  The Bible first begins with a Holy God who is perfect in every way.  Then in a miraculous act of love and grace, God created the human race!  Humans were given "free-will" so that we had the ability to do whatever we want.  Unfortunately, humans for whatever reason, choose to disobey God.  We use the term "sin" to describe this selfish disobedience.  Tragically, our sin has created a serious problem between humans and God.  Since God is Holy he cannot coexist with sin.  Therefore, our sin separates us from God and this results in our spiritual death!  So how can God and man coexist?

In order for God and man to coexist someone must pay this penalty, but who?  The Bible tells us that Jesus (God's only son) was sent to earth to pay this penalty for our sin.  He was the only human in history whose purpose of being born was to die.  Good Friday is the day when Christians remember Jesus Christ's death on the cross.  On that day Christians also remember how Jesus did more than die!  As Jesus died he took on the burden of every sin that was ever committed.  Think about how you felt the last time you did something wrong.  Now imagine what it would feel like to take the blame for sins committed by Hitler, Stalin, and Charles Mason combined.  Jesus, who was the only sinless and perfect human that every existed, actually became sin.  There are truly no words that can ever describe what Jesus experienced on that day.  But why would God allow this to happen to His one and only son?  The answer is love!  He loved you and I so much that he sacrificed His Son so that we may have a relationship with Him.

Thankfully, this is not the end of the story.  This is actually where the Easter celebration begins!  Three days after Jesus died, he defeated sin by miraculously rising from the dead.  Jesus is now up in Heaven seated at the right hand of God.  Easter Sunday is when Christians celebrate Jesus' resurrection from the dead.  It is a day to rejoice in the fact that we serve a living God!  He was the Lamb that was slain for us and we must remember, rejoice, and give thanks.
What must we do to prepare our hearts?  God simply wants us to admit that we are sinners and trust that Jesus took our sin away by dying on the cross.  Whoever does this will be declared sinless before God and spend an eternity in Heaven with Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.  If you do not believe, then you will spend an eternity separated from God in a place the Bible calls Hell.

In the end, the question is whether you believe this message from the Bible.  I am not here to make that decision for you, but I encourage you to look deeper into what the Bible says.  Do not let life pass by without believing.

Is your heart ready for Easter?


Saturday, March 31, 2012

Stuffed Tomatoes

Recipe from Williams Sonoma Pasta.
The first time I made this dinner was when I was in college.  When I was home for long breaks, I would take advantage of having my mom's kitchen to myself while my parents were hard at work.  I decided over my Christmas break that I wanted to have a new dish ready for when she walked in the door so she wouldn't have to worry about dinner that night.  I randomly selected this from one of her cookbooks for a few reasons: it was new and we never had this meal, it seemed easy enough to make, and there was almost no clean up.  I was nervous she wouldn't like it, but my to my surprise, her eyes lit up when she walked in the door.  The aroma coming from the kitchen was the most delightful smell after a long day of work.  It has since become one of our favorite meals to make.

This is a perfect recipe to serve with fresh pasta, however store bought will also do.  It makes for a fabulous dinner, but is just as delicious as a side dish - just leave out the pasta and serve the tomatoes on their own. 
6 vine ripe tomatoes
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup bread crumbs
2 TBS oregano
salt
pepper
3 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 pound thick cut pasta, such as pappardelle or fettuccine
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Rinse the tomatoes and slice in half so that you have a top and bottom.  Scoop out the seeds and arrange on the baking sheet cut side up.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the cheese, bread crumbs, oregano, salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Spoon the bread crumb mixture in the tomato halves.
  4. Bake the tomatoes for 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the pasta according to the cooking instructions.
  6. Toss the cooked pasta with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Arrange the tomatoes over the top of the pasta.  Serve with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Strawberry Orange Muffins

Recipe adapted from The Best of Cooking Light.
I made these for my parents as a late lunch when they were coming in from out of town to visit.  It was meant to fill their hungry bellies after a long ride and to hold them over until dinner.  I baked them expecting to have about a half dozen left over.  Little did I know, my dad would love them so much that he would end up eating about a half dozen on his own!  It's okay though, that's why I made them and I was happy to see him enjoy them.  These muffins are great for a light breakfast, brunch, late lunch, or as a quick snack.  I love to serve them along with a strawberry orange fruit salad - the colors look so beautiful and cheery on your plate.
1 1/2 cups strawberries, halved (approximately 8 large strawberries)
3 TBS unsalted butter, melted
1 TBS grated orange rind, approximately 1 navel orange
2 large eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray a muffin pan with cooking spray.
  2. Put strawberries, melted butter, orange rind, and eggs in a food processor and pulse to blend, but not puree, ingredients.  The strawberries should still be in chunks.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the flours, sugar, flaxseed meal, baking powder, and salt.  Add the strawberry mixture from the food processor and whisk together.
  4. Divide the batter among 12 muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Remove immediately from the pan and allow to cool.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Savory Peach Chicken

Recipe adapted from So Simple by Ellie Krieger
I love fruit paired with a protein and this recipe nails it.  I spent a day with my mother-in-law learning how to can peaches this past summer.  Once I had taken them home, I counted and rationed out my jars so I could be sure they would last us the winter.  This dish was worth cracking open one of my precious peach jars to cook with.  The recipe suggests using frozen fruit if fresh is unavailable, however I must warn you that the results will lack in flavor.  The canned peaches were already soft and sweet and ready to eat and were the perfect substitute for fresh.
1/4 cup orange juice
2 TBS brown sugar
2 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS rice vinegar
2 TBS canola oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/4 pounds total)
salt
pepper
1 tsp peeled and grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chicken broth
 4 large firm, ripe peaches, sliced to a 1/2 inch thickness (or 4-5 canned peaches, approximately 8-10 halves)
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the orange juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, and rice vinegar to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Heat 1 TBS of the oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat.  Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper and place in the heated skillet until brown on both sides, about 2-4 minutes per side.  Transfer the chicken to a plate.
  3. Add 1 TBS of oil to the skillet and cook the ginger and garlic, consistently stirring until slightly brown, about 30 seconds.  Add the chicken broth, soy sauce mixture, and peaches.  Turn the heat to high and cook uncovered until the sauce is slightly thickened and the peaches have softened (if using fresh peaches), stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes.
  4. Nestle the chicken in the pan, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cover.  Cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. Serve over brown rice.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grilled Veggies

My mother-in-law makes grilled veggies when the weather warms up.  It's usually a mix of whatever's in her garden, but the result is always the same - a smokey, delightful side dish.  I've watched her make them countless times, hoping to catch on to her secrets.  Because she throws them together as quick as the summer lightning, I never seem to be able to get it all down.  Her grilled veggies have inspired me to come up with my own version.  The zucchini in this is bursting with flavor, but does have some kick to it from the red pepper flakes.  This recipe serves two as a side.
2 zucchinis
1 medium yellow onion
4-5 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt
pepper
red pepper flakes
  1. Wash the zucchini and cut the ends off.  Slice the zucchinis to about a 1/2 inch thickness and put them in a large bowl.
  2. Slice the onion to make rings, about a 1 inch thickness, separate the rings, and add to the zucchini.  Add the chopped garlic.
  3. Season generously with salt and pepper and about 3 shakes of red pepper flakes.  Drizzle with olive oil to coat the vegetables and toss together.
  4. Spread the vegetables in an even layer in a grill basket or on foil.  Grill for about 40 minutes, until the veggies are tender and browned in spots.
  5. *Hint:  I used the oil, seasonings, and a few bits of garlic left in the bowl from the veggies to toss my chicken breasts in before grilling them with barbecue sauce.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Roasted Peppers

My family eats and serves roasted peppers at any and every occasion.  My mom makes delicious roasted peppers and has them on hand in the fridge throughout the summer.  I have fond memories of sitting at the kitchen table watching her prepare them with ease.  Mema always had them as part of her impressive antipasto platter along side various cuts of meats, cheeses, olives, and tomato petals.

I like to make them because they are so versatile and can be added to all sorts of meals.  Our favorite way to eat them is on slices of Italian bread with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.  We also throw them in salads, put them on sandwiches and paninis, and toss them in pasta dishes.  Even though you can now buy them at the grocery store, they're worth the extra time and taste best homemade.  Not to mention, your home will smell heavenly while they're cooking.
4 large red peppers
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or pushed through a garlic press (optional)
5-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
salt
pepper
  1. Preheat the oven using the broiler.  Position the top rack in your oven to a setting close to the broiler.  Cover a cookie sheet with foil.
  2. Rinse and dry the peppers.  Arrange on the cookie sheet and place in the oven.  Keep a close eye on them.  Once the peppers are thoroughly blistered and burned in spots, turn them over, about 5 to 7 minutes per side.  Continue until all sides are blistered and burned.
  3. Place the peppers in a large bowl and immediately cover tightly with Saran Wrap to seal.  It will create a lot of steam, but this will loosen the skins so they fall right off.  Allow the peppers to cool.
  4. Once the peppers are cooled, remove and discard the skins, stem, and seeds, reserving some of the juice that comes out while cleaning the pepper.
  5. Slice the peppers and place in a separate clean bowl along with the reserved juice.  Drizzle enough Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the peppers so that it covers them.  Add the garlic and basil, season with salt and pepper, and mix.  The peppers will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
  6. If you're not going to serve the peppers the day they're made, you can leave the garlic out and add it when you're ready to eat it.  They are also tasty without the garlic if you'd rather omit it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Apple Cinnamon Breakfast Burrito

My mom and I used to make these back when I was in high school.  I was home sick for a few months and my English teacher would come over after school to tutor me.  Mom always made this easy treat for him as a snack and he thought she was the best cook in the world because of them.  He liked these apple burritos so much that he continued to talk about it in class when I returned and then again a few years later when my younger brother had him.  I was completely embarrassed then, but secretly was so proud of my mom.

I'll make these for breakfast or even lunch.  When preparing it for lunch for the week, I'll cook up a few extra apples, then portion them out for a few meals and store the spiced apples in air tight containers.  When I'm ready to take it along with me, I'll throw some yogurt and chopped nuts in the container.  Keep the tortilla separated and assemble when you're ready to eat it, otherwise you'll end up with a soggy mess. 
1 large tortilla (whole wheat or white)
1 Granny Smith apple
1 1/2 tsp. salted butter
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1 handful of chopped walnuts, pecans, or almonds
yogurt, plain or French vanilla
  1. Peel, core, and thinly slice your apple to about 1/4 inch thickness.
  2. In a saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add the apples, cinnamon, and sugar and cook, approximately 3-4 minutes, until the apples are semi-soft.
  3. Arrange the apples in the center of your tortilla.  Add a dollop of yogurt.  Fold up the bottom of your tortilla, then the sides.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Banana Almond Smoothie

Recipe adapted from Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond
This is my favorite type of smoothie and I make it a few times a week from Spring to Fall.  To change it up, I'll add a handful of frozen strawberries to make a Strawberry-Banana Almond Smoothie.  It's not overly fruity tasting like some smoothies, but has a mild flavor that makes for a perfect breakfast, lunch, snack, or any time in between.
almond milk (see previous post for recipe)
2 frozen bananas
nutmeg
  1. Make almond milk according to the recipe.
  2. Add bananas and blend until all the fruit is pureed and well mixed.
  3. Sprinkle a little nutmeg on top.

Almond Milk

Recipe adapted from Fit for Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond
This frothy lactose-free milk is pleasant on its own or over cereal, however I love to use it for Banana Almond Smoothies.  Because I make this milk for smoothies so often, I typically blanch a large amount of almonds and remove the skins, then store in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for about one week.  The almond milk tastes best when eaten right after you make it, otherwise the almonds begin to settle to the bottom. 
1/4 cup almonds, blanched
1 cup cold water
1 TBS honey or pure maple syrup
  1. To blanch the almonds, bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Add the almonds and boil for about 10 seconds, until the almonds float to the top.  Drain the almonds and rinse under cold water, then pop the skins off.
  2. Add the almonds, water, and honey or syrup to a blender.  Blend for about 1 minute, until the almonds are pureed and mixed, and the milk is frothy.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Mom's Pasta Broccolini with Shrimp

Pasta Broccolini with Shrimp was on my Mom's constant dinner rotation when I was a kid.  She usually made it on Friday nights as a dinner-date for her and my Dad.  I remember she would set the table with a beautiful table cloth, would light some candles, and had everything all ready to go for him when he walked in the door.  I now look forward to this meal and often try to replicate it myself.  It can be made with or without shrimp.
1 pound spaghetti, linguini, or fettuccini (whole wheat or regular)
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 head of broccolini
Extra Virgin olive oil
4-6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon
red pepper flakes (optional)
salt
freshly ground black pepper
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  2. Trim the ends off the broccolini, leaving the head in tact.  Drop the broccolini in the boiling salted water for 3-4 minutes, until bright green and tender crisp.  Remove from the boiling water, then briefly run under cold water, cut into small stalks, and set aside.  Save the boiling water to later cook your pasta in.
  3. Using a large skillet, pour enough Extra Virgin Olive Oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Turn up to medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add 2-3 garlic cloves and 1 shake of red pepper flakes (if using), then add the broccolini.  Saute for 1-2 minutes, just until the broccolini is coated with the oil and garlic.  Add a scant 1/4 cup of the white wine.  Pour the broccolini and sauce into your serving bowl.
  4. Cook your pasta in the boiling water from your broccolini.  Be sure to under cook it by 1-2 minutes according to the package's directions.  (For example, if the package says to cook the pasta for 10 minutes, you'll want to cook it for 8-9 minutes.  It will be under cooked but you'll finish cooking it at the end along with the broccolini, shrimp, and sauce.)
  5. Add more oil to cover the bottom of the pan, the remaining 2-3 cloves of garlic, and 1 shake of red pepper flakes (if using).  Add shrimp and saute, 2-3 minutes per side, until it turns pink and is cooked through.  Pour another scant 1/4 cup of white wine and the juice of 1/2 of the lemon into the pan.  
  6. Return the broccolini mixture into the pan, then add your pasta for the remaining cooking time.  Toss together with fresh black pepper.  Transfer to your serving bowl and finish with the juice of the remaining 1/2 lemon and a drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Serve hot with freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Saturday Morning Pancakes

Recipe adapted from Gina Neely in the Food Network Magazine.
My Mema began the tradition of making pancakes on Saturday mornings when my mom was a little girl.  My mom did that with me and  I now continue that with my husband.  We were on the hunt for the perfect pancake recipe to celebrate and kick off what we call "The Most Wonderful Day of the Week."  I found this recipe in the Food Network Magazine and we instantly fell in love.  These pancakes are dense and filling, but oh so tasty.  Like any pancake recipe, you can use whatever fruit you'd like.  We've done strawberries and/or blueberries with this.
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 TBS granulated sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cups plain low-fat yogurt (or buttermilk)
2 large eggs
4 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
Fruit (sliced strawberries, blueberries, bananas, shredded apples, etc.)
  1. Measure the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a small bowl.
  2. Mix together the yogurt, eggs, and melted butter.
  3. Combine and add fruit of your choosing.
  4. Butter a griddle and cook.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pop-Pop's Banana Walnut Bread

Recipe adapted from The Best of Cooking Light.
I started adding walnuts to this recipe special for my Pop-Pop.  He absolutely loves them.  He orders it on his pancakes, puts it in his cereal, and now requests it in his banana bread.  I like to bake this for him every once in a while just to hear the happiness in his voice when he calls to tell me he's eating and enjoying it.  Once I started adding nuts to his bread, I couldn't stop adding it mine!  It has lovingly been renamed "Pop-Pop's Banana Walnut Bread."  I hope you like it as much as he does.
2 mashed ripe bananas
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg white
1 large egg
1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (all-purpose flour works, too)
1/3 cup flaxseed meal
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (optional)
cooking spray

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8x4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the bananas, sugar, vegetable oil, egg white, and egg with a mixer on low speed.
  3. Add the flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda, and salt.  Mix on low speed, then add the walnuts.
  4. Pour the batter into a loaf pan.
  5. Bake for 40 minutes.  Use a cake tester to see if it comes out clean.
  6. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely.

Homemade Granola

My mom used to make homemade granola for my brother and me and would pack it for my snack at school.  As you can imagine, I couldn't focus on my teacher but would rather think about what was waiting for me in my lunch box.  I've been craving that crunchy, sweet treat recently, and as though my mother-in-law could read my mind, she showed up one day with a bag of her own granola!  As I munched on it, memories came flooding back.  Now that I'm all grown up, I eat it sprinkled over a fresh fruit parfait.  My husband enjoys it mixed in with his cereal.  Pop-Pop eats it over berries.  My mother-in-law mixes it with yogurt.  This can be eaten as breakfast, lunch, or even as a snack - any way you choose it's sure to fill your belly and satisfy your taste buds.  How do you eat your granola?  Leave a comment!

8 cups oats
1 cup coconut
1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup flaxseed meal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup canola oil
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup honey or pure maple syrup
1 1/2 Tbs. vanilla
Dried fruit (craisins, raisins, dried cherries, dried blueberries, etc.)
  1. Combine oats, coconut, wheat germ, almonds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, flaxseed meal, brown sugar, salt, and cinnamon in a very large bowl.
  2. Add canola oil, water, honey or maple syrup, and vanilla.  Toss to coat evenly.
  3. Spread across two large baking sheets with higher sides.
  4. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, turning every 15 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool.  Add dried fruit according to how much (and what kind) you like.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Roasted Asparagus

Roasted asparagus is a healthy and tasty side to any dinner.  I love the lemon flavor in the asparagus along with fish.  When the weather is too hot to turn on the oven, this recipe can be thrown on the grill.  You can use foil or a grill basket - either way works perfectly.  It's tender, yet still has some crunch, and is loaded with flavor.


1 bunch asparagus
1 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt
pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Trim and rinse the asparagus, then pat it dry.
  3. Place asparagus on baking sheet.  Lightly drizzle with approximately 1 tablespoon olive oil, squeeze lemon juice over asparagus, and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Using your hands (or kitchen tongs), gently toss asparagus to coat.  Spread asparagus in an even layer.
  5. Bake for 10 minutes.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Healthy Eating

I pay close attention to the food I buy and prepare.  I watch the ingredients and like to make as much from scratch as I can.  This helps me monitor what I'm eating and allows for substitutions of various ingredients to cut calories if possible and boost the health factor.  However, you will notice on this blog that I don't always cut everything that is considered "unhealthy."  When making special treats, I still use butter and real sugar if a recipe calls for it.

Some substitutions I use are:
  • Plain yogurt in place of buttermilk or sour cream.  (I personally like the Stonyfield Organic yogurt.)  Any time a recipe calls for buttermilk or sour cream, I replace it with plain yogurt.  When substituting yogurt for buttermilk, try to get some of the whey (the liquid that collects on the top of your yogurt) mixed in with the yogurt.  This will give it more of a buttermilk consistency.  I also use regular or Greek yogurt in place of sour cream on things like baked potatoes or Mexican dishes.  It's just as tasty, but so much healthier!
  • Sugar with a little water in place of corn syrup.  I've heard both sides of the debate on corn syrup.  Some say to stay away, others (like the makers of corn syrup) say it's fine in moderation.  I'd rather not take the chance.  When a recipe calls for corn syrup, I always use the same amount of sugar and add a little water.  For example, a recipe may call for 1 tablespoon of corn syrup.  Instead, I will measure 1 tablespoon of sugar.  In the same measuring spoon, I will add a drop or two of water.  The sugar absorbs the water and turns somewhat syrupy.
  • Whole wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour.  I don't do this with everything I bake.  Of course some things, like cakes and cookies, just taste better with all-purpose flour!  Instead, I try to use whole wheat flour when baking muffins and breads.
  • Fruit in place of no fruit.  This title may sound odd, but I like to sneak in fruits or veggies whenever possible.  The fruit in my one muffin may not be enough to meet the recommended 5 daily servings of fruits and veggies,  but I like adding any extra fiber, vitamins, and nutrients whenever possible.  A little here and a little there adds up by the end of the day.  If I find a muffin or baked french toast recipe, for example, I typically add in an apple, a peach, some blueberries, etc. for that extra punch of healthy goodness!  Give it a try sometime, you might even like the recipe better with the added flavor from the fruit!
  • Butter in place of margarine or butter substitutes.  I'm sure in my grandparents' day, this would have seemed like a ridiculous thing to post.  Those good old fashion recipes all called for butter.  Of course, this was before the days of low-cal and heart healthy.  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for low-cal and heart healthy whenever possible, but I can't help but notice the long list of ingredients in any type of butter substitute, many of which contain trans-fats.  When compared to the ingredient list on butter (sweet cream or sweet cream and salt), I think I'll just stick with the more natural, less processed butter.  Not to mention, it tastes better, too.
  • Whole wheat bread crumbs in place of store bought bread crumbs.  This is used in some, but not all, recipes that call for bread crumbs.  Most store bought bread crumbs contain hydrogenated oils and preservatives - two things I'd rather stay away from whenever possible.  When making dishes such as baked chicken cutlets, I'll throw some slices of whole wheat bread in the food processor until they turn to crumbs.  Not only is this a healthier alternative, but it's a great way to use up the heals of your bread that would otherwise get tossed.