Thursday, March 26, 2015

Granola Bites

Little was the only one home with me this morning and she loved not having to fight over the stool or take turns pouring and mixing.  I wanted to make a recipe I have made in the past to help out with our after-school snack situation.  The girls come home hungry and either want granola bars, Clif bars, or something like that (which I'd rather save for their lunch bags) or they want a bowl of cereal or a bagel.  It's not awful, although my first choice would be that they have a glass of milk and a piece of fruit, but I wanted something that wouldn't fill them up too much before dinner (like a whole bagel) and something with some protein.  These are pretty sweet so I sold them as "cookies."

There are a few different versions of this recipe floating around online but I like the proportions in this one (link to original under the recipe below).  I've used almond butter or natural unsweetened peanut butter in the past but today all I had was Jiff - a bit sweeter so I reduced the honey slightly.  If you're gluten free, just make sure you're using gf oats.

The girls liked them as a snack today but they're not great to transport (in a baggie in a lunch bag, they turn into granola).  While Little loved helping me mix them, she took one bite and said "no wike it."  In general she's not a chocolate fan (!?!?!) but I think the texture of the coconut might be what she really didn't like.

Granola Bites (makes about 20)

1 cup oatmeal
1 cup coconut flakes (preferable unsweetened)
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup peanut butter (or other nut butter)
1/3 cup honey
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix everything together in a medium bowl until fully incorporated.  Chill in the refrigerator for about a half hour.  Roll into balls and enjoy!  Store in an airtight container and refrigerate.  Will keep for about 1 week (if they last that long!).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Skillet Potatoes

After daylight saving time started and it was light outside later, we made hamburgers one night and I found a new side dish recipe to go with them.  Let me pause by saying that when you picture "hamburger" it's probably not what my husband makes.  He grills hamburger patties and center cut bacon, toasts Kaiser rolls in the bacon grease, and assembles his famous "Gondola Ride" adding deli mustard, Swiss cheese, arugula, red onions, and bacon.  They are amazing.

The full name of this recipe on the original site is "Crispy-Outside, Creamy-Inside Garlic Herb Potatoes" - too long!  I'm going to call them skillet potatoes.  I loved the method and the end result and I'll be making these often as a side dish.  I liked dipping them in spicy mustard.

Skillet Potatoes (serves 4-6)
from Host the Toast

1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes
1 sprig rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
2 c. low sodium chicken broth (plus more if necessary)
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T parsley, finely chopped

In a 10 inch nonstick skillet, arrange the baby red potatoes so that they are in a single layer with a little extra room around each one (you'll flatten them later).

Add the rosemary, thyme, chicken broth, olive oil, kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of the butter to the skillet.  Bring to a boil.  After it boils, reduce the heat to medium and put a lid on the skillet but leave it cracked to vent the excess steam.  Make sure the broth simmers for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender.

If all the liquid has absorbed, add an additional 1/2 cup.  You want the broth to come about 1/3 of the way up the side of the potatoes.

Take the pan off the heat and use a mallet or the back of a measuring cup to press down on the tops of the potatoes lightly until the skin cracks and and they flatten a little bit.

Return to high heat, uncovered, until the liquid has absorbed and the potatoes have browned on the bottom, about 10 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat again and flip the potatoes.  You can flatten them a little bit more at this point and scrape up any burnt bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the last tablespoon of butter, sprinkle with parsley, and cook until that side is browned, about 5 more minutes.  Serve warm sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Monday, March 16, 2015

St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  This year St. Patrick's Day is the start of 6 months that I get to be home from work with the family . . . hoping this also means more time in the kitchen and playing with my little leprechauns.  On St. Patrick's Day, I always think about the fun trips I took to Ireland and Oregon oin years past (let's do it again Sarah & Paula!) and also my sister in law Sonia because it's her birthday!

Tomorrow I'm planning to make corned beef and cabbage tomorrow night and probably a rainbow cake.  If you want some holiday food inspiration, here are my picks of what you should make for your people:

Corned beef & cabbage

Irish Onion Soup
Green Soup

Irish "Potatoes" (truffles)

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Spring is on the way . . .

I'll be honest - although it was a short month, February kicked my butt.  It's usually one of my favorite months (my birthday!) and there were some fun times, but an emergency appendectomy and a lot of personal and professional stress are probably what I'll remember about February 2015.  I'm easing back into the normal things of life (laundry, cooking, wearing clothes that aren't pjs or yoga pants) and I revisited this old favorite recipe.  Tortellini is something my girls like and it's easy to just boil and open a can of sauce but I like it better prepared other ways like in soup or this tortellini and veggie dish.  While it has a can of diced tomatoes, it's not too tomato-y and I left the chunks of veggies big enough that Big could pick out what she doesn't like.

I'm glad it's March and spring and spring break are on their way - how about you?

Tortellini & Veggies (4 servings)

1 c. chopped onion
1 8oz package of sliced mushrooms
3/4 c. red pepper cut in chunks
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T olive oil
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
9oz package of refrigerated cheese tortellini
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. white wine
2 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 small zucchini
1/2 c. shredded Asiago or Parmesan cheese

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and cook onions, mushrooms, red pepper and garlic over medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until the onion is tender.  Stir in undrained tomatoes, tortellini, water, wine, and seasonings.

Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer covered for 10 minutes.  While tortellini is simmering, cut your zucchini in half lengthwise and then in slices.  Stir the zucchini in and cook for 5 minutes more uncovered (until zucchini is crisp tender).  Sprinkle with cheese before serving.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

I didn't get a good photo of the final casserole, but this one gives you an idea of the yummy layers involved.  I love chicken cordon bleu but have never made an "authentic" recipe.  This isn't an authentic presentation but rather a rift on the idea with layers of chicken, ham, and swiss, topped with buttered panko breadcrumbs.  While my husband and I loved it, the girls weren't so sure . . . in general, casseroles are a hard sell.  They like to see all the parts of what they're eating, probably so they can complain about each aspect of the meal individually.  I know I sound cynical, but the picky eating is driving me crazy lately.   Let me know if the picky eaters in your family will eat this!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole (serves 4)
from Full Fork Ahead

3 cups cooked shredded chicken
1/4 lb very thinly sliced deli style ham (chopped)
4-6 thin slices of deli swiss cheese

2 T butter
2 T flour
1.5 c. milk
1 T lemon juice
1 T dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

3 T unsalted butter, melted
3/4 c. panko bread crumbs
1 tsp. dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9x9 pan.  Put the cooked shredded chicken on the bottom of the pan.  Roughly chop the ham and scatter it over the chicken.  Lay swiss cheese on top of the ham.

To make the sauce, melt the butter in a small sauce pan.  Quickly whisk in the flour to form a roux - do not brown.When the roux is smooth and bubbly, slowly pour in the cold milk, whisking briskly so lumps don't form.  Once smooth, cook over medium heat until it thickens.  Stir in the lemon juice, dijon mustard, and season with salt and pepper.  Bring the sauce to barely a boil, turn it off the heat, and pour over the swiss cheese. Make sure to pour it evenly, getting some sauce around the edges.

To make the topping, mix all ingredients in a small bowl.  Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.

Bake the casserole uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until the casserole hot and bubbly throughout and the topping has turned a light golden brown.  Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Little Turns TWO!

I cannot believe this little thing is TWO years old tomorrow!! Remember how little she started out?  I still love her littleness and she is such a joy in our house.  When I picture her, it's pushing a stroller with her doll or Elmo along for a ride, carrying her diaper bag full of bottles, sippy cups, and doll diapers.  Like her big sisters, she likes skirts and accessories, and she often asks me to brush her hair in "two" (two ponytails).  She makes friends everywhere and people all over town know her name.  She loves music and sings to herself constantly, has a big imagination and takes care of her babies and stuffed animals like such a sweet little mommy.  Little always wants to know where everyone in the family is and what they are doing.  It's her job to call everyone to the table at dinner "time a deeno!" and wake up her sisters for school.  When she kisses me on the cheek, she asks, "happy mama?"  to which the answer is always, "yes!  you make me happy."

Big and Middle are obsessed with planning birthday parties and themes.  They talk about theirs all year round.  Even though theirs aren't until August and September, as of today, the themes will be "Wizard of Oz Slumber Party" and "Wild Kratts."

When we ask (somewhat jokingly) what kind of birthday Little wants to have, she says "cake."  When pressed or given choices, it's "Elmo."  So, Elmo Cake birthday it is!  Little doesn't share our affection for chocolate so I turned to my meyer lemon tree once again for inspiration and made her a lemon cake with vanilla frosting.  It turned out delicious!

 Lemon Birthday Cake with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting (makes two 8in layers)
from Cooking Light

2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1.5 c. sugar
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
3 large eggs
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
2 T finely grated lemon rind
2 T fresh lemon juice

For frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3-4 c. confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 T vanilla extract
up to 4 T milk or cream

Preheat oven to 350 and spray 2 (8 inch) round cake pans with baking spray (or butter and flour).

 Measure flour and combine it in a bowl with the baking powder, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk.  Set aside.

Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl.  Beat with a mixer at medium speed until fluffy (about 3-4 minutes).  Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.  Add flour mixture and buttermilk alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Beat in the lemon zest and lemon juice.

Pour batter into prepared pans.  I use a kitchen scale to make sure they're even.  Tap each pan sharply on the counter once to release air bubbles.  Bake at 350 for 28-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.  Cool in pans 10 minutes on a wire rack.  Remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack.

Make Frosting:

Sift the confectioner's sugar.  Beat butter for a few minutes in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment on medium speed.  Add 3 cups of powdered sugar and turn on the lowest speed until the sugar has been incorporated.  Increase speed to medium and add vanilla, salt, and 2 T of milk or cream and beat for 3 minutes.  If the frosting needs to be more stiff, add more sugar.  If it needs to be thinned out, add remaining milk 1 tablespoon at a time.

Frost cake and serve!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Recent favorite pasta

Alright, I feel like if I'm going to post so infrequently, I owe you some photos with the post.  Here are a few recent ones of what my life looks like these days . . . not a lot of sleep or rest but plenty of smiles and adventures.

This pasta recipe was another Pinterest "win."  I love sun dried tomatoes and I liked that this recipe has chicken as a lean protein to balance out the carbs.  We've been eating lots of the sausage & kale pasta but I wanted something a little different and this hit the spot.

Chicken Mozzarella Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes (4 servings)
from Julia's Album

3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small jar (3-4 oz) sun-dried tomatoes in oil (you can use dried if you want)
1 lb chicken breast tenders
1 c. half and half
1 c. mozzarella cheese, shredded
8 oz penne pasta
1 T dried basil (can use fresh - maybe use more)
crushed red pepper flakes

Cooking Note:  If you're using the sun-dried tomatoes in oil (from a jar), drain them before using them and reserve 2 T of the drained oil for sautéing.  If you're using dried sun-dried tomatoes, use 2 T olive oil.

In a large pan on high heat, sauté the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes (drained) in 2 T of oil (see note above) for 1 minute until garlic is fragrant.  Remove the sun-dried tomatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Add the chicken tenders, salt lightly cook on high heat for 1 minute on each side.  Remove from heat.

Cook pasta according to package instructions.  Reserve a cup of the cooked pasta water.  Drain the pasta and rinse with cold water.

Slice the sun-dried tomatoes into smaller bits (if you want to) and then add them back to the skillet with the chicken.  Add half and half and cheese to the skillet and bring to a gentle boil.  Immediately reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring constantly, until all the cheese melts and a creamy sauce forms. Add the cooked pasta to the skillet and stir to combine.  Add basil, red pepper flakes (to taste) and stir to combine.

At this point, the creamy pasta sauce will be too thick so add about a 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water (try a tablespoon or two at a time, stirring, until it's a consistency you like).  Immediately season with salt and more red pepper flakes to taste.  Let it simmer for a few more minutes to combine the flavors.