Thursday, October 19, 2017

Pumpkin Spice Everything



Ahhh . . . fall.  Leaves falling, cooler temperatures - nope.  Here in Southern California we are having 90+ degree weather almost every day and the kids are swimming on the weekends and blistering hot during their midday soccer games.  Despite this, I've been craving fall foods and flavors and made some new pumpkin cookies when my girl friends came over a week or so ago.  I had lots of help from Little who has been enjoying the one-on-one (aka not taking turns with the mixing or having to share the kitchen stool) time we get together this fall.

These cookies are sort of like a fall version of the molasses spice cookies I make at Christmas or similar to pumpkin snickerdoodles.  They were delicious!

In other pumpkin spice news, I've been loving the "pumpkin spice almond beverage" from Trader Joe's and have been putting it in my coffee or making overnight oats with it.  My PSA for the day is to stock up on the pumpkin stuff you love from there . . . it won't last all the way through the holidays!

Pumpkin Spice Cookies
from Just So Tasty blog

2.5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp cloves
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup canned pumpkin

To roll the cookies in:
1/4 cup granulated sugar combined with
1.5 tsp. cinnamon

Whisk together flour, cornstarch, cream of tartar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  In a separate bowl, cream butter until light and fluffy and then add the brown and granulated sugar and beat until light and fluffy.  Turn the mixer to low and beat in egg yolk, vanilla, and pumpkin.  Gradually add the flour mixture until incorporated but do not overmix.  The dough will be very sticky.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours (or up to 2 days).

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 and take the dough out of the refrigerator.  Form into balls (about 2 T apiece) and roll in the cinnamon sugar.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with silpat mats or parchment paper and bake for 7-9 minutes or until the cookies look barely set.  Cool on a rack.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Lemon Chicken with Olives


Chicken . . . it's a healthy protein, relatively easy and readily available but controversial in my house.  It's not my husband's first choice and because I make it often, my kids sometimes groan.  But, I've landed on a couple of dishes lately that are winners.

The first isn't a new idea, I think I've posted it before, but I put boneless skinless chicken thighs in the crockpot and smear them with pesto (lately Kirkland pesto from Costco), pour a little chicken broth over, and cook it for 3-4 hours until it's falling apart.

The second is this chicken pictured here.  My kids like olives but even if you don't, you could leave them out or chop them large enough to pick out.  I used a chopped Greek Olive tapenade from Trader Joe's so the red flecks are pimentos or roasted peppers.

In addition to the family liking it, the bonus was that it's super fast to the table - perfect for busy weeknights!


Lemon Chicken with Olives (serves 4)
from Skinny Taste blog


1/2 T olive oil
4 chicken breasts
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp flour (all purpose or gluten free)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed is best)
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1 cup olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 T chopped fresh parsley
4 thin lemon slices (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Season chicken with salt and sprinkle with flour.  Heat oil in a oven proof pan and sear the chicken about 3 minutes each side.   Add garlic, wine, lemon juice, zest, thyme, and olives to the pan.  Top chicken breasts with lemon slices.  Transfer to the oven and cook for 10 minutes.  Serve hot, topped with the chopped parsley.
7 sp



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Spinach Artichoke Lasagna Rolls

Wow- it's been awhile!  If you're still here, thanks.  I'm hoping to get back to cooking and blogging.  Fall just began and soccer and school are in full swing.  We've had some relaxing weekends and some super busy ones.  This past weekend we went to Catalina Island so Big and Dad could scuba dive (Big is close to becoming PADI certified) and it felt like summer there.






But, with fall on the calendar and some cooler evenings, I've been looking for comfort food.  I made a pot of chili last week and my husband's favorite cassoulet and then tried this new recipe from the Emily Bites blog.  My kids don't love white sauces in general (weird, right?) so I used a jarred marinara for theirs but this turned out gooey, cheesy, and yummy without being too unhealthy.  


Spinach Artichoke Lasagna Rolls (serves 8)
from Emily Bites

8 uncooked lasagna noodles
8 oz brick cream cheese, softened (I used reduced fat)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup mozzarella cheese
1 T grated parmesan cheese
1 tsp minced garlic
1/8 tsp black pepper
10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup drained canned artichoke hearts packed in brine or water, chopped
15 oz jar light Alfredo sauce (I like the Classico)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Boil and salt a large pot of water and cook the lasagna noodles to al dente.  Drain, rinse with cold water to cool, and lay them out to dry.

In a mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, parmesan, garlic, pepper, spinach, and artichoke hearts and stir until well mixed.  When the noodles are dry, place a heaping 1/3 cup of the spinach artichoke mixture on to the noodle and spread evenly.  Starting with one end, roll the noodle up over the filling until it becomes a complete roll.  Repeat until all noodles are filled and rolled.

Lightly spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.  Spoon 1/3 of the Alfredo sauce into the bottom of the pan and spread evenly.  Place the lasagna rolls seam side down in the dish and spoon or pour the rest of the sauce over the top.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of mozzarella over the top.  Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.  Let it cool 5-10 minutes before serving.   9SP per roll

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What we've been reading

Summer Reading!  We haven't done the library program this summer but we've been reading on our own and together . . . for the together part, mostly audio books.  We have listened to the first two Harry Potter books and this little gem:
In this book, the main character loves food, cooking, and has lost her kitchen privileges due to an unfortunate creme brûlée incident with a blow torch.  My girls loved this book and are looking forward to reading or listening to the sequel soon.  It has inspired them to cook and be in the kitchen more so more cooking adventure posts to come!

One of the things I love about not working in the summer and about vacation, is reading a bunch. These four really stood out to me.  I won't bother summarize or review but I'll put a quote from each book under the image.  Any suggestions for what I should read next??

"It is not an act of bravery to try to save your own village.  It is an instinct to protect what you possess.  Bravery is when you step in to help when you have nothing to lose."


"We read to know we're not alone.  We read because we are alone.  We read and we are not alone.  We are not alone.  We are not quite novels.  We are not quite short stories.  In the end, we are collected works."

"Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful?  People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it."

"Rough as life can be, I know in my bones we are supposed to stick around and play our part . . . And it might be you never know the part you played, what it meant to someone to watch you make your way each day.  Maybe someone or something is watching us all make our way.  I don't think we get to know why."


Monday, July 3, 2017

Kids in the kitchen

One of my goals as a mom is to say "yes" to my kids when they want to do something and it might seem inconvenient to me but it would ultimately be good for them.  Lately, there have been a lot of requests to cook, bake, and help in the kitchen so I'm trying to take advantage of that.  I think this has been inspired by a book we've been reading but more on that in my next post!

The other night, I wanted to make fried rice with leftover rice and some grilled mahi-mahi that we needed to use up.  When I told Big she could make that, Middle wanted in on the action, so I said she could be in charge of the kids' food that night.  She made grilled cheese with a side dish of ice cream sandwiches. Little was very happy with the side dish choice and her chore for the evening was setting the table.

Big did a pretty good job following the recipe . . . I had to help her scramble the egg, do some chopping, and judge when the rice was fried enough.

You can find the original recipe for fried rice here.  We added the grilled mahi-mahi at the end until it was heated through.  If you haven't seen my technique for grilled cheese - it's a complete lifesaver and now that Middle can do it, she can help me out at lunch time or supper time.




Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Blood Orange Sorbet

 It's almost summer vacation! We started out with a chain this long (27 links) a few weeks ago and now we're down to 8 links.
We had Open House at the girls' school and Mother's Day & Father's Day events in both preschool and kindergarten.  I went with Middle to her last field trip of the year and took Big to visit family and friends in the Midwest.  It seems like now the To Do lists are in full effect . . . everything I need to do to finish up my quarter at work, to get ready for 2 months away, and to get through the last two weeks of the school year with the girls.  It's exciting!





One of the almost summer things we've been doing is using our ice cream maker.  I found David Lebovitz's method for sorbet (link below in the recipe) and I'm sold.  I usually make a simple syrup adding water to the sugar but with his technique, the flavor and texture was outstanding.  I think it's the lack of water and/or the addition of a couple tablespoons of champagne.  Serving sorbet with champagne is always a good idea but adding it to the mixture is something I haven't tried before.  These ratios and the method will work for other fruits / citrus as well.  Two additional notes:  Lebovitz doesn't strain his juice and I recommend tasting the sweetness of your juice and adjusting the sugar amount slightly.  My juice was really sweet so I used less sugar than what it says below.


Blood Orange Sorbet
from David Lebovitz

Ingredients:

Blood oranges
Sugar
Champagne or sparkling wine (optional)

Method:
1.  Juice your oranges and measure the juice
2.  For every 1 cup of juice, add 1/4 cup of granulated sugar
3.  Put the sugar in a small saucepan and add enough juice to saturate the sugar.  Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat.
4.  Add the liquid with the dissolved sugar to the rest of the juice and place in the refrigerator until chilled.  Optional:  When completely chilled, add 2 tablespoons of champagne or sparkling wine per cup of juice mixture.
5.  Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Chicken & Mushrooms


This was a great weeknight meal that reminded me a lot of the  Peppered Beef Stroganoff - you could use this method of making the mushroom sauce without heavy cream to lighten up that recipe or make a dairy free version.  If dairy is an issue, also use all olive oil and no butter when you saute the chicken initially.  I put a note also about gluten - just skip the flour part or use a gf flour if you need to.  Finally, if you don't have or don't want to use the white wine, just substitute more chicken broth for that ingredient.
  
I served this with some roasted veggies and everyone in the family liked it!


Chicken and Mushrooms in a Garlic White Wine Sauce (serves 4)
Skinny Taste Blog
Ingredients:
8 chicken tenderloins, 16 oz total 
2 tsp butter
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup all purpose flour (use a gf flour or skip this step to make it gluten free)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup fat free chicken broth
salt and fresh pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 200°. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge in flour. 
Heat a large skillet on medium heat; when hot add 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp olive oil. Add chicken to the skillet and cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes on each side, or until chicken is no longer pink. Set aside in a warm oven.

Add additional oil and butter to the skillet, then garlic and cook a few seconds; add mushrooms, salt and pepper stirring occasionally until golden, about 5 minutes.

Add wine, chicken broth, parsley; stir the pan with a wooden spoon breaking up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook a few more minutes or until the liquid reduces by half. Top the chicken with the mushroom sauce and serve.
4sp