Tuesday, May 1, 2018

When I bake . . .

Baking is my first cooking love, and it's something I rarely do anymore.  When I bake, I eat what I baked.  And, I don't just try or sample, I keep eating and eating and eating.  So, usually I bake for a special occasion when I'm taking it to someone else's house or entertaining.  A few weeks ago we had a rare weekend with no real plans and I was in a baking mood.  I took a recipe from the Emily Bites blog and made a few changes to use some Meyer lemons we had that were ripe and some blueberries in the refrigerator.  They were delicious!  And, with the exception of 3 of them, I think I ate them all.

They look like muffins but you have to think about them like baked oatmeal because that's really the consistency.  If you use GF oats, they are gluten free.   If you do Weight Watchers, they are 2 points apiece under the new plan.

Lemon Blueberry Oatmeal Singles (makes 12)
adapted from Emily Bites

2 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg
1 egg white
1/2 c. unsweetened almond milk
3/4 c. plain fat free Greek yogurt
2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used Meyer lemons)
zest of one large lemon
1 cup blueberries

Preheat oven 350.  Lightly spray a muffin tin with cookie spray.

Whisk together the egg white, egg, almond milk, yogurt, lemon juice and zest in a large bowl.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until blended together.  Stir in the blueberries.  Spoon the mixture evenly between 12 muffin cups.  Bake for 20 minutes or until the oatmeal is lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


We are taking advantage of the warm weather by jumping in the pool, climbing trees, riding bikes, and spending as much time outside as possible!

I made this in the crock pot the other night and it went over pretty well with the family.  The kids could pick out what they didn't like and mostly ate the chicken and sausage pieces and white rice separately.  The flavors were good and it was easy to toss in the slow cooker and come home to cooked dinner a couple of hours later.  I suggest serving it over white or brown rice and serving it with some hot sauce on the side.

Slow Cooker Chicken and Sausage Creole (6 servings)
from Skinny Taste

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into pieces
9 oz chicken Andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
1 cup chopped onions
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes
3 oz tomato paste
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 tsp creole seasoning
dash of cayenne pepper

Place everything in the slow cooker.  Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

3sp/1 cup

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Instant Pot (Kid) Flop

My kids are quite the food critics and will often voice their opinions in a constructive way (this is good but too spicy, I don't like this together with that) but not this time.  I made a new instant pot recipe which I could barely get them to taste and paired it with potstickers which they've loved in the past but also would barely taste this time around.  Sigh.

I, however, was a big fan.  I like cooked cabbage, I like egg rolls, and I've wanted to try a "deconstructed egg roll" recipe for awhile.  It was quick, nutritious, and tasty.  I made some plain chicken potstickers for the girls but the Trader Joe's Chicken Cilantro Wontons for me.  This would be a good low-carb side dish with the previous short rib recipe, with grilled fish, or even with sashimi.  If you use a GF soy sauce and teriyaki sauce, it would be gluten free.

Deconstructed Egg Roll (in an instant pot) makes 6 cups
from You Brew My Tea blog

4 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups shredded carrots
2 cups bean sprouts (I used fresh but you could use 1 can, drained and rinsed)
1/2 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup Teriyaki sauce
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
salt and pepper to taste after cooking

In a bowl, mix the broth, sesame oil, soy sauce, teriyaki, ginger and garlic.

Pour broth in the bottom of your instant pot.  Pour in cabbage, carrots, and bean sprouts.  Cover with the sauce mixture and stir it all together.  Set to manual / pressure cook and cook for 7 minutes.  Do a quick release and remove lid.  Stir well and taste.  Add salt and pepper if desired.

1SP / half cup

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


What inspires you to make the food you make?  To try new recipes?  For the last year and a half, I've been more intentional about eating healthy (and, if I'm being honest, eating less).  It hasn't been the most inspiring since I don't bake as often or make many indulgent recipes.

But, for my birthday, my mom bought me an Instant Pot.  I've decided that sometimes having a new "toy" or a new method to experiment with is inspiring.  Last year, I got a spiralizer and I use it probably weekly.  I may not have bought myself an instant pot since I'm generally a late adopter but having a shiny new one as a gift got me cooking!  My sister gave me some invaluable tips and I got some recipes from a tennis friend and some cookbooks I found at the library.  I'm not yet ready to modify my existing recipes to work in a pressure cooker, but I've been using it a ton and really enjoying the Instant Pot experience.

One of the misconceptions about the instant pot is that it's, well, instant.  It's not.  There are things that cook much quicker than normal like the short rib recipe below but depending on the recipe, you also have to take in account the amount of time it takes to come up to pressure (about 10 minutes) and to release pressure (could be instant, could be 30 minutes or more).  So far, this recipe has been one of my favorites!  I served it with steamed white rice and some green veggies.

Five Spice Short Ribs  (serves 6)
from The Instant Pot Cookbook

6 boneless beef shortribs, trimmed
2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
kosher salt
2 T canola oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1 inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 T rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup beef broth
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 c. brown sugar (or raw sugar)

Preheat oven to broil.  Coat both sides of the shortribs with the five-spice powder and sprinkle with kosher salt.  Line a sheet pan with foil and place the short ribs on top.  Place under the broiler for 3 minutes each side. 

Preheat the Instant Pot by selecting "Saute."  Add the oil.  Saute the garlic and ginger for 2 minutes, or until starting to brown.  Add the vinegar and cook for 1 minute.  Select "Cancel" and add the broth, soy sauce, and sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves.  Add the ribs and secure the lid.

Select "Manual" and cook at high pressure for 35 minutes.  Once the cooking is complete, use a natural release.  This took about 20 minutes. 

Remove the ribs and place them back on the same foil & baking sheet.  Brush with he cooking liquid and broil again for 3 minutes per side to form a crust.

Meanwhile, select "Saute" on high heat and reduce the sauce by half.  After broiling, brush the ribs with the sauce again and serve with the extra sauce on the side.


Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Valentine's Day

I know it can be cheesy, but I've always loved Valentine's Day.  Having my birthday the day before didn't hurt when sometimes I had heart-shaped birthday cakes, heart themed birthday decorations, and an extension of the celebration.  My husband and I stopped eating out for Valentine's Day years ago and used to cook together to celebrate.  In recent years (because, you know, kids), this has changed too and now I try to make a special breakfast or dinner that the kids will enjoy.

This year, Valentine's Day was on a Wednesday when I didn't have work and I had a bye for tennis, so I had a little extra time on a school morning to make heart shaped pancakes with strawberries.  For dinner, I made a recipe I've been looking at for a little while . . . it was a big hit and I'll definitely make it again.  This is a lighter, healthier version of a one-pot comfort food and the flavors were rich and satisfying.  I liked how my kids could eat the parts (read: just the chicken or maybe some sausage) that they enjoyed.  I served it with a green salad and breadsticks.

Braised Chicken with Sausage & Peppers (serves 4)
original recipe from Serious Eats

6-8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
3-4 links sweet or hot Italian Sausage (I used mild Italian chicken sausage)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
2 large red bell peppers, thinly sliced
2 T minced fresh sage leaves
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sliced pepperoncini peppers
1/4 cup of the pick line liquid from the pepperoncinis
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken broth

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides.  Heat some olive oil in a 4-6 qt Dutch Oven (or ovenproof skillet with a lid) over medium high heat and cook until each side is browned, about 8 minutes total.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Add the sausage links to the same pot and cook until well browned on each side, about 4 minutes total.  Remove from pan and cut each link in half.

To the same pot, add the onions and peppers.  You can add a little vegetable oil if there isn't rendered oil from the sausage.  Stir, scraping up browned bits, until the onion and peppers are soft and starting to brown.  Add garlic and sage and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Then, add pepperoncinis and their liquid, stirring and deglazing the pan.  Add the wine and cook until the liquid has reduced by half.  Add the chicken stock, give it a stir, and return the sausage and chicken to the pan.  Transfer to the oven and cook, covered, for 30 minutes.  Serve immediately, spooning the sauce over the chicken and sausage.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Holiday Snack Mix

Christmas time is here!  I love the holidays and came across these two drawings from Little and Middle the other day.  When we got out our nativity sets, Little started spending lots of time setting them up and playing with them.  The other day, one of the angels broke her wing so baby Jesus let her lay in the manger while it healed.  But, Little told me, it meant that the angel couldn't go to the beach anymore.  

Ok, this is what you want to be snacking on this holiday seasaon!  David Lebovitz has come to the rescue once again with "that thing I didn't know I wanted to eat but am now obsessed with."  My photo may not be the best here but you get the idea.  It's a little (not too) sweet, a little spicy, and salty - the perfect counterbalance to sweets, other appetizers, and would go nicely with a Christmas cocktail.

A couple of notes:  I used pecan halves and whole almonds but you can also use cashews, hazelnuts, peanuts . . . I think larger nuts (rather than sliced) work better.  My bottle of cayenne is super spicy (even for me) so I used less than the amount below.  Once it gets too spicy, it's hard to tone it down so I'd start with less and add more if needed.  I used the gluten free pretzels from Trader Joe's this time around and they were great.

Spiced Glazed Nuts & Pretzel Mix
from The Sweet Life in Paris

2 cups mixed raw nuts
1 T unsalted butter, melted
3 T dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. cayenne or other red pepper 
1 1/2 T maple syrup
1 tsp. flaky sea salt or kosher salt
2 cups pretzel twists (gluten free or regular)

Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, stirring once. In a medium bowl, mix together the melted butter, brown sugar, cayenne, cinnamon and maple syrup.  Add the warm nuts, stirring until coated.  Then stir in the pretzels and sea salt until everything is completely coated.  Spread the mixture back on the baking sheet and return to the oven for 12-18 minutes, stirring twice.  Remove from oven and cool completely, separating the pretzels and nuts as they cool. Once cool, you can store this in an airtight container for up to a week.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Eating all the cheese . . .

Last weekend, I hosted a dinner party for some of my husband's friends and work colleagues.  It turned out to be smaller than I originally thought (6 adults) and it was so much fun!  I haven't had a chance to cook for a group like that in awhile, and I did the appetizers pictured here, a soup first course, a seafood main dish, and an awesome dessert (if I do say so myself!).  The other recipes are ones I've made before with good success.  I didn't anticipate how challenging it would be to triple the main dish (I usually only make it for the two of us) but despite leaving out an ingredient, it turned out pretty great.

So, this appetizer was delicious.  I ate.  so.  much.  cheese.   And it was worth it!  This is easy and would be great for holiday parties.  I wasn't sure exactly how to get the brie to fit inside or how to make those notches on the side, so I watched this video - it's probably clearer than my description below!

Blooming Brie in a Bread Bowl
from Delish

One boule
Brie wheel
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
Italian seasoning
Olive Oil
Fresh parsley (to serve)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the top off of the boule and save.  Place the brie wheel on the cut part of the bread and use a knife to trace around it and cut a whole big enough for the wheel to fit into.  Pull out the bread to make space for the brie wheel.  Slice the top of the rind off of the brie wheel.  Around the edges of the boule, cut slices about two inches deep and about an inch - two inches apart.  This is what you can use to tear pieces of cheesy bread once it's done baking.

Drizzle the bottom of the hole you made in the boule with olive oil, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, and then sprinkle with half of the mozzarella.  Set the brie wheel on top.  Over the top of the brie (where you cut the rind off), sprinkle the rest of the mozzarella.

Place the top of the boule back on top and place the whole thing on a cookie sheet or in a baking pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the bread is browned and the brie is melty.  Remove the bread on top and slice it up to serve alongside the boule and sprinkle with parsley.  Serve warm.