Saturday, February 4, 2012

Hot potato.....

I made these twice-baked potatoes for dinner awhile back and forgot to share the recipe! They were very good....the perfect meal for a winter evening. Add a tossed salad and you are ready for business.... :-)

I added mushrooms (finely chopped) and I always use Oscar Mayer real bacon bits (because I am lazy and hate the smell of greasy bacon in my house). They taste great!  You could also substitute feta cheese for the bleu cheese, if your family are not fans. ;-)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Re-inventing the

My kids take snacks to school everyday and the 2 boys at home need lots of snacks to keep their energy levels up. ;-) But snack foods KILL my food budget! Not to mention that most of them are filled with preservatives and sugar and....(fill in the bad stuff of choice).

So, in keeping with my perspective for 2012--always try to make things homemade if possible--I decided to start researching snack items that I can make myself. In addition to including nuts and raw veggies/dip in our snack regime, I found several recipes for healthy (or healthier) bars and cookies.

The first one I tried was homemade fig newtons. Our whole family LOVES fig newtons, but I DO NOT love the price! Plus, they are way too sugar-y and filled with preservative junk. I researched online and found a relatively easy recipe for them.

With a little healthy tweaking and some experimentation in the kitchen, I think I have perfected an easy little snack for my kids.

Homemade Fruit "Newtons"

1 cup finely chopped dried Black Mission figs
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup apple juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 t. grated orange zest

*Note: I did not make this filling....I just used some organic strawberry preserves that I had on hand. When I DO make it, I will cut down (or out) the sugar.*

Cookie Dough:
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar (I used less)
1/2 t. grated orange zest
1 large egg white
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 T. ground flax (I added this for extra texture/fiber)

1. Make the filling. Combine the figs, water, apple juice and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook at a bare simmer for 1-2 hours, until the figs are soft and spreadable.

2. Transfer to a food processor or blender, add the orange zest and process until smooth. Remove from the food processor and allow to cool.

3. Make the dough....Cream together the butter, sugar and orange zest in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, for 2-3 minutes on medium speed. (I just used a hand mixer, since I still live in the Dark Ages...) Scrape down the bowl and paddle. Add the egg white and vanilla and beat in. Scrape down the bowl and paddle again. Add the flour and beat on low speed until the dough comes together. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Make sure rack is in the middle of the oven.

5. On a floured surface, roll the dough out to a 12x16 rectangle. Cut into 4 equal strips, each 12x4 inches. Spoon a line of filling down left side of each strip--fold dough over and pinch edges together. Place on the parchment-lined baking sheets.

6. Using a serrated knife, slice each log on the diagonal into 10 cookies. Bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a rack.

*These are obviously not going to be EXACTLY like the real thing, but they DO make a yummy, easy snack.*

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Peter Peter, pumpkin eater

It's that time of year again.....
...when everything food-related suddenly has pumpkin in it.

Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin milkshakes, pumpkin pie, roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin soup.

All of this is hard for someone who is not *in love* with pumpkin.

(That would be me.)

Don't get me wrong--there are a few pumpkin-y items that I really like. I just don't want it forced into every recipe I own.
I am a "selective pumpkin eater".

I HAVE always been in love with this pumpkin delicacy though......

{pumpkin roll}

I think my desire for it is based mainly on the cream cheese filling but's a pumpkin thing and I like it.
And I had never made one until a few weeks ago!

I know...crazy, right? I always drooled over it and dreamed of it, but was way. too. lazy to make one myself. But I figured that is no way to live.

So I searched my FAVE site and found a recipe for one here.

And I made it.

And it was awesome.

This is how I enjoyed it....with a cup of coffee OF COURSE.....amidst the toys and chaos.
It was still heavenly.

Thankfully, I am not called to live inside a pumpkin like poor Peter's wife. Those things smell horrible.....but they do make a good treat....when slathered with cream cheese frosting. ;-)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

A little bitta Italy in my house

*Editor's Note: This post was written months ago and never published. I apologize to those readers who have been camped out by their computers, waiting for it. Life probably got a little tough.....)*

Some of my FB friends asked me to share this recipe for pasta fagioli soup....
so they too can have houses that smell like Olive Garden. ;-)

My whole family liked the recipe, which means we will be eating it again. There was one thing I didn't like about it--if you leave it sitting on the stove for too long, the pasta gets mushy. So be sure to serve the soup as soon as it is done cooking.....

{Pasta Fagioli}

2 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes with basil, garlic and oregano
2 cans (14.5 oz each) reduced-sodium chicken broth

8 oz (about 2 cups) small pasta shells

1 t. Italian seasoning

1 bunch fresh kale, tough stems discarded, cut into 1-inch pieces and washed
2 cans small white beans, drained and rinsed

1 T. tomato paste

1/2 t. salt

1/4 t. pepper
grated parmesan, for serving

1) Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook 1 minute.
2) Stir in tomatoes, broth and 3 cups water. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Add pasta and Italian seasoning. Cook, stirring, 5 minutes.
3) Stir in kale; cook 5 minutes more. Reduce heat to medium and stir in beans, tomato paste, salt and pepper. Heat through.
4) Ladle into bowls; garnish with Parmesan.

(Recipe from Family Circle--Feb 2011)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A cup a day keeps the doctor away....

Forget the apples! I know something better for curing a cold.....

When I was a kid, my mom had a friend named Hazel. She was actually our pastor's wife and she was one of the most unusual people I had ever met. At one point, I had a very bad cold/sore throat and she recommended a concoction to my mom.

I HATED it the first time I tried it. It was strong-tasting and hot....that is all I remember. But it worked! After a few cups of the stuff, my sore throat was gone and my cold had disappeared.

After that, I was sold. To this day, when I feel a cold coming on, I mix up a cup or two of this stuff and drink it until the symptoms go away.

{Hazel's Cold-curing Brew}

1 bag herbal tea (fruit-flavors usually taste best) 3 T. honey 1 T. apple cider vinegar

1) Brew tea bag as directed. Add honey--stir until dissolved. Add vinegar. 2) Drink as hot as you can stand it. Repeat as needed.

Stay healthy, my friends..... ;-)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hootie and Semisonic left out some valid points

Those of you who are reading this and know anything about me would probably agree with two things:

1) I ADORE bread and
2) I am NOT a patient person.

The combination of those two characteristics rules out most bread recipes for me.

As I was readying myself to make some bread last night, a quick glance at the recipe deterred me. I was looking at a 3 hour process! No bueno for me.....I like my bread to be QUICK! We are all busy people, correct? Time is money, time is of the essence, blah, blah, blah....

So....being the impatient bread-lover that I am, I just altered the recipe. And guess what?! It turned out awesomely! (Yes, I am fully aware that that is not a real word. Thank you, dictionary police....)

The original recipe was out of Country Living magazine (one of my all-time faves) and was a perfectly good recipe. But I needed it to be easier. So, I will share the edited version with you and hope that you enjoy the "quickness" of it as much as I did.

{Mini Country Loaves}

1 pkg. dry active yeast
2 T. sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
2/3 cup warm (110 F) milk
*I just heated milk in the microwave for 30 seconds*
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats, ground into a fine flour *I used my blender*
1 1/2 t. fine sea salt
2 T. olive oil
1/2 cup warm water

1) In a bowl, combine yeast, sugar, flour and milk. Add ground oats, sea salt and olive oil. Stir in water slowly until dough forms.

2) Remove dough and knead on lightly floured surface until supple, about 4 minutes. Place in well-oiled bowl, turning dough to coat with oil. Cover bowl with a towel; let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

3) Heat oven to 400. Punch down dough and knead for 1 minute. Divide into 4 equal portions; shape into loaves to fit into small loaf pans. Place in pans--cover with towel for 20 minutes.

4) Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, brush tops with butter and sprinkle with additional oatmeal if desired. Bake for 5 more minutes. Cool completely (or gobble it down as soon as you can do it without scalding the roof of your mouth.....whichever.)

Note: I cut out the eggs in the recipe....not because I am on an egg-free campaign. I was out of eggs. Also, I cut down the prep time by an hour because I mixed everything together at once, rather than following the tediously time-consuming steps that the original called for. You may all thank me later..... (This was all said in a Dwight Schrute tone of voice.)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

An artist needs inspiration

These days, there are many resources available to home cooks, thanks to the world wide web. I love stumbling onto great cooking blogs or seeing pictures of someone's creative meal.
It is so easy and accessible!

But it is often OVERWHELMING.....

Don't get me wrong....I will always use the internet to look up recipes and find inspiration for meals.
But I am an old-fashioned girl at heart.
I like recipes in my hands, written down on paper.

My favorite "medium" for recipes actually comes in the form of magazines.
I subscribe to Everyday with Rachael Ray, Simple and Delicious and Food Network's magazine.
My mother-in-law often sends me her Cooking Light mags also, and she just introduced me to Cuisine at Home (which I am planning to subscribe to as soon as I have the money!).

Those are my "go-to" magazines.....which ones do you use for cooking inspiration?