Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pumpkins - 2015 edition


For the first time in 5 years, I made the pumpkin bundt cake.  Both of the layers were spice cake and I used a vanilla whipped cream frosting (colored orange) to frost it.  This time, instead of using fruit roll up for the face, I used a black, sparkly gel frosting.  The frosting and face sort of dripped / sagged from the weight of it all but it turned out pretty good.  The girls loved the idea and "helped" me with the assembly.  Here are the full instructions if you want to try it for Halloween!

If you want to make another pumpkin dessert, there are SO many on the blog, but this is probably my favorite:  Pumpkin Crumb Cake.  Okay, one more (hard to choose!)  Pumpkin "Tiramisu."

Last year, I did a retrospective with photos of the kids with pumpkins in years past.  Here is the 2015 update:  last weekend, we carved pumpkins with our church group.  

Middle was super excited that she was allowed to use carving tools all by herself.


Big sketched her ideas before choosing what to carve on her pumpkin:


When the kids were tired of carving, the parents could be found still diligently working on pumpkins:


Some of the final Jack-O-Lanterns

Not Leftovers . . . a new meal!

Last week I made one of my favorite crock pot recipes here on the blog - the Green Enchilada Chicken Soup.  I made the full recipe even though I know my kids aren't the biggest soup eaters (Big only likes Chicken Noodle and Middle only likes Green Soup) because the leftovers are awesome.  This time, instead of thinning down the thick leftover soup, I warmed it and served it over hot biscuits.  My mom used to make creamed chicken over biscuits and it was so good.  This is a green enchilada twist on that idea.  It made the leftovers into a "new meal" and one I will make again.  

Green Enchilada Chicken Soup (I left out the corn this time)

A good biscuit recipe (or use a tube of Pillsbury ones)


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mexican Lime Soup with Chicken


Soup is one of those dishes where a few simple ingredients are transformed by combining them
together.  This recipe looks super simple (and it is) but it was nourishing and delicious.  We are
thankfully healthy but this would be the perfect dish if you're coming down with a cold or feeling
under the weather.  I love the queso fresco and avocado on top of the hot soup.  You can reduce the
jalapeño if you want - I only used a little more than half of one yesterday but it wasn't very spicy and
I wished I had put in the whole thing.  You could cook the chicken in the broth with the onion, garlic,
and jalapeño but I used chopped up rotisserie chicken to make it faster . . . dinner on the table within
a half hour of getting home from soccer practice - not an easy task these days!

Mexican Lime Soup with Chicken (2 servings)
(adapted from Williams Sonoma)

3 or 4 limes
2-3 cups shredded cooked chicken
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 jalapeño chili, seeded and chopped
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth  
1 1/2 tsp.  oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 Haas avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
2 oz. queso fresco or mild feta cheese, crumbled

Cut 1 lime into 4 to 6 wedges; set aside for serving. Juice as many of the remaining limes as needed to measure 1/4 cup.

Heat some olive oil in a pan.  Add the onion to the pan and sauté until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and chili and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth, lime juice and oregano, and chopped chicken. Bring the heat up, but not to a full boil, and then adjust the heat so it barely simmers. Simmer for 15 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.

Put the avocado, cheese and lime wedges in separate small bowls. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately. Pass the avocado, cheese and lime wedges alongside.  

Yields 2 large servings (or 4 first course servings)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies


It still doesn't feel much like fall in So Cal (yes, we do have seasons . . . just not so much this year!) but I made some yummy pumpkin cookies a week ago.  We devoured them - I still love the Joy of Cooking version (here on the blog) but these oatmeal ones were pretty yummy too.  We like chocolate chips in our pumpkin cookies and I usually do the mini ones because they're less messy in little hands.  But, I think dried cranberries or raisins would be good in this recipe too.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies (made 3.5 dozen)
adapted from All Recipes

3/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1.5 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder and spices.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and then add the sugar, beating until fluffy.  Lower the speed on your mixer and add the pumpkin puree and egg.  Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients, stirring until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.  Drop tablespoons of batter onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 9-11 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned.  

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Full Swing

School and our fall schedules are in full swing:

Baby girl has been very patient driving her sisters to and from school and their activities


When she's at home with Mama, we play dress up and blocks.



We made another trip to the beach to enjoy this extremely hot September weather.


Big sister is loving soccer - the gear, the practice, the games and her teammates.

I have to admit that getting dinner on the table on nights when we have soccer practice or have been out all day doing stuff is challenging.  I tried the demo at Trader Joe's the other day and came across an awesome cheater version of enchiladas that was an instant hit with my kids.  That doesn't happen too often!  You use frozen taquitos (without defrosting) and bake them with enchilada sauce and cheese.  We had carrot sticks and Mexican rice with it and it was dinner in about 20-25 minutes.  Middle liked helping me pour the sauce, sprinkle the cheese, and place the olives.  Trader Joe's has black bean taquitos, chicken, and beef - something for everyone!


Trader Joe's "Enchiladas" (serves 4)

1 container of frozen taquitos from Trader Joe's 
1 bottle of Enchilada sauce
1-2 cups shredded cheese
1/2 can of sliced olives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and spray an 8x8 pan with cooking spray (or olive oil spray).  Put taquitos in a single row in the pan.  Pour enchilada sauce over the top.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese and top with sliced olives.

Bake for 15 minutes or until bubbly and melty.  The taquitos will soften up in the baking.  


Friday, September 26, 2014

Indian Dinner



My sister Paula had a little time between her wedding/honeymoon and starting her new job (with a Ph.D. - my little sis is amazing!) and was doing some cooking that intrigued me.  I'm excited to try all this out - especially homemade naan . . . that sounds incredible!  I asked her to share her recipes with us as a guest blogger:



I recently was looking for books to read on vacation and just as I turn to this blog for cooking ideas, I turned to Rebecca’s “Shelfari” page for book suggestions.  As a result, I just finished reading “Secret Daughter” by  Shilpi Somaya Gowda.  Part of the book takes place in India and one of the characters mentions that any 12 year-old  Indian girl can make Saag Paneer without a recipe.  I figured if a 12 year old can do it without a recipe I certainly could do so with a recipe.  (Note: this logic has gotten me in trouble before, like the time I came home from school and announced that I was going to make a buche de noel/Yule log because if Julia Child can do it, I can do it, but that’s a whole other blog post).  I then thought of how my friend Ashlee made Naan the first time I met her (good first impression) and I recollected a recipe for “Tandoorish” chicken in a cookbook I received from Rebecca several Christmases ago. Thus, I set out on an adventure creating my first Indian meal. 

The process was a bit time consuming but pretty easy and the fruit of my labor was super tasty.  I was most proud of the fact that I made my own cheese! You can buy paneer at an Asian grocery store but making it will make you feel like a rock star so I recommend giving it a try.  

Paneer (Indian Cheese)
From foodnetwork.com

Cheesecloth
8 cups whole milk
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed

Line a large colander with a large double layer of cheesecloth, and set it in your sink. In a large wide pot, bring the milk to a gentle boil over medium heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning the bottom.  This will take a little while so be patient.

Add the lemon juice and turn the heat down to low. Stirring gently, you should almost immediately see the curds (white milk solids) and whey (the greenish liquid) separate. (if milk doesn’t separate juice some more lemons an add another tablespoon or two.  Boost the heat gain and the milk should separate.)
Stir in a motion that gathers the curds together rather than breaks them up.

Remove the pot from the heat and carefully pour the contents into the cheesecloth-lined colander.  Gently rinse with cool water to get rid of the lemon flavor.  

Grab the ends of the cheesecloth and twist the ball of cheese to squeeze out the excess whey.  Tie the cheesecloth to your kitchen faucet and allow the cheese to drain for about 5 minutes.  


Twisting the ball to compact the cheese into a block, place it on a plate with the twisted part of the cheesecloth on the side and set another plate on top. Weigh the second plate down with cans of beans or a heavy pot.  Move to the refrigerator and let it sit about 20 minutes.



Saag Paneer (serves 4)
From foodnetwork.com

1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne
Kosher salt
3 tbsp plus 1½ tbsp vegetable oil
12 oz paneer, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 (16 oz) package frozen chopped spinach
1 (1-inch) thumb ginger, peeled and minced (about 1 tbsp)
4 cloves garlic minced
1 lg green Serrano chile, finely chopped (seeds removed if you don’t like it spicy)
½ tsp garam masala
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ cup plain yogurt, stirred until smooth

In a large bowl, whisk together the turmeric, cayenne, 1tsp salt, and 3 tbsp oil. Gently drop in the cubes of paneer and gently toss, taking care not to break the cubes. Let the cubes marinate while you get the rest of your ingredients together and prepped.



Thaw the spinach in the microwave, 5 minutes on high, then puree in a food processor until smooth, alternatively you can chop it up very finely with your knife (I skipped the food processor step, it’s a matter of texture). 

Place a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, and add paneer as the pan warms.  In a couple of minutes give the pan a toss; each piece of paneer should be browned on one side. Fry another minute or so, and then remove the paneer from the pan onto a plate.

Add the remaining 1 ½ tbsp oil to the pan. Add onions, ginger, garlic, and chile. Saute the mixture until it is evenly toffee colored, which should take about 15 minutes (this is the foundation of the dish, don’t rush this step). If you feel like the mixture is drying out and burning, add a couple tbsps of water.

Add the garam masala, coriander, and cumin. If you haven’t already, sprinkle a little water to keep the spices from burning.  Cook, stirring often for 3-5 minutes.

Add the spinach and stir well, incorporating the spiced onion mixture into the spinach. Add a little salt and ½ cup of water, stir, and cook about 5 minutes with the lid off.



Turn off the heat and add yogurt a little at a time to keep it from curdling. Once the yogurt is well mixed into the spinach, add the paneer. Turn the heat back on, cover, and cook until everything is warmed through, about 5 minutes. Serve with naan!

Naan (6 pieces) *I will double this next time I make it
Foodnetwork.com

1 tsp active dry yeast
2 tsps sugar
2 cups all purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/8  tsp baking powder
3 tbsps plain yogurt
2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
Melted butter for finished naan
Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Note: you can make GF naan by substituting 2 ¼ c of gf all purpose flour mix for the regular flour plus 1 ¼ tsps of xanthum gum. When it is time to roll it out try pressing the dough with fingertips rather than rolling

In a large glass, dissolve the dry yeast and 1 tsp sugar with ¾ cup warm water (about 100 degrees F). Let it sit on your counter until its frothy, about 10 minutes (I accidently put all my sugar in at this step but it turned out fine).

Meanwhile, mix the flour, salt, remaining 1tsp of sugar and baking powder into a large deep bowl.

Once the yeast is frothy, add the yogurt and the olive oil into the glass, and stir to combine.  Pour the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients and gently mix the ingredients together with a fork. When the dough is about to come together, use your hands to mix until it transforms into a soft, slightly sticky and pliable dough.  As soon as it comes together, stop kneading. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and let it sit in a warm draft-free place for 2-4 hours.
  

When you are ready to roll, make sure you have two bowls, one with extra flour and one with water. The dough should be extremely soft and sticky.  Separate the dough into 6 equal portions and lightly roll each one in the bowl of extra flour to keep them from sticking to each other.


Shape the naan, using a rolling pin roll each piece of dough into a tear drop shape, narrower at the top than at the bottom.  It should be 8-9 inches long, 4 inches wide at its widest pint and ¼ inch thick.  

Once you’ve formed the general shape you can also pick it up by one and wiggle it to stretch it out a little.  Repeat with rest of the dough.  Warm a large cast-iron skillet over high heat until it’s nearly smoking.  Make sure you have a lid large enough to fit the skillet and have a bowl of melted butter ready.

Dampen your hands in the bowl of water and pick up one of your naans. Flip-flopping it from one hand to the other to lightly dampen it.  Gently lay it in the skillet. The dough should start to bubble. After about 1 minute, flip the naan. It should be blistered and somewhat blackened.  Cover the skillet with the lid and cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute more.

Remove the naan from the skillet, brush with a bit of butter and sprinkle with a little coars sea salt. Place the naan in a tea towel-lined dish. Repeat with the rest of the naan and serve.

Tandoor(ish) Chicken (serves 4)
“The food you want to eat” by Ted Allen

The marinade smelled so delicious I wanted to eat it straight out of the blender…super easy and delicious chicken dish I will definitely make again. 

Marinade
½ medium onion, quartered
3 medium garlic cloves
2 inch piece of fresh ginger peeled
Juice of ½ lemon (about 1 tbsp)
½ cup plain yogurt
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of ground cardamom

Chicken
1½ to 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut crosswise 1½ to 2 inches thick
3 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lemon or line cut into wedges for serving


Combine all of the marinade ingredients in a blender and puree (I used my new nutribullet, it worked great!). Pour out into a glass baking dish. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Add the flour and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat charcoal or gas grill. Just before you’re ready to cook the chicken add the oil to the chicken mixture and stir. Lightly oil the grate with folded paper towels drizzled with oil.  Heat up grate for a few minutes until it has reached medium high heat (when you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grate for about 3 seconds) and place the chicken on the grill. Cook until browned on both sides, 8 to 10 minutes total. Serve with lemon or lime wedges.


Monday, September 22, 2014

First Day of Fall


It may not feel like it here in So Cal but today is the first day of fall.  I made this delicious fall-ish recipe last weekend for my girlfriends and I'm not sure about them, but I loved it (and chowed down the cold leftovers a couple of days later).  The pumpkin pie flavor was delicious and I liked the moist texture better than my other baked oatmeal recipes.  I made it GF and dairy free with GF oats and almond milk so it's versatile in that regard.  I imagine that a flax seed substitute would work fine for the egg as well.

I forgot to bring the whipped cream that I bought but I served it with maple syrup and some candied pecans that were chopped up.  Yummy!! Hope you're feeling some fall weather wherever you are!

Baked Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal (8 servings)
adapted from Budget Bytes

1 can pumpkin puree (15oz)
1/2 c. brown sugar
2 large eggs
1.5 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1.5 c. milk  (can use almond or soy)
2.5 c. old fashioned oats
For topping:  maple syrup, milk, nuts, whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt, and baking powder until smooth.  Whisk in the milk.

Mix the oats into the pumpkin mixture.  Grease a 2 quart casserole dish and pour in the oatmeal.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes.

Serve hot out of the oven.  Top with milk, maple syrup, nuts, or whipped cream.  Tastes good cold too!