Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Happy Birthday to Me!


My birthday is the day before Valentine's Day and I often make myself a cake.  We had friends over for dinner on Friday night, so I did it early to celebrate with them.  It was a big hit - little kept telling me "you should always make this cake" or  asking "when will you make this cake again?" and ate most of the leftovers herself!  We have meyer lemons on our trees and if you have access to a few fresh lemons, chances are, you also have the rest of these ingredients on hand.  You could even pull this off for Valentine's Day today!  Don't skip the lemon syrup at the end!

How cute is my new spatula?!?

Lemon Bundt Cake
from Martha Stewart

For the cake:
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3 c. all purpose flour
2 T finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1 cup sour cream

For the lemon syrup:
1/2 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray bundt pan with baking spray (or coat with butter and flour).  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, lemon zest, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of a mixer, beat butter and sugar on medium high until light and fluffy (4-5 minutes).  Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Mix in the lemon juice.

With mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture and sour cream (beginning and ending with flour mixture) until blended but do not overmix.  Spoon batter into prepared pan.  Smooth the top with a spatula and tap the pan on the counter to level the batter.

Bake until a tester in the center comes out clean (50-60 minutes).  My cake got pretty brown in the first 30 minutes so I tented the top with aluminum foil for the rest of the time.

Make lemon syrup by combining the lemon juice and sugar in a small sauce pan.  Whisk it over low heat until the sugar is dissolved.  Let cool to room temperature.

Cool the cake in the pan for 20 minutes and then turn out on a rack to cool completely.  Poke holes all over the cooled cake and brush with lemon syrup.  If it won't absorb it all, let it sit for about 20 minutes and continue to brush with the rest of the syrup.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Green bean & Chicken Skillet

I had to apologize to my family for not doing much "real cooking" on weeknights lately.  The combination of working and the kids' afternoon/evening sports has made me rely on grilled cheese, soups that I make on the weekend and reheat, salads, rotisserie chicken, tacos - you get the picture.  I made this recently and it was a hit - easy and quick, healthy, bacon . . . need I say more?  I made some rice pilaf (from a box) to go with it.

I liked the flavor with 1/2 cup of Sauvignon blanc, but if you'd prefer to cook without wine (or to drink it instead of cook with it!), substitute that for more broth.  In a lot of grocery stores, you can buy chicken breast cutlets or you could take 1 pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and cut them lengthwise into cutlets yourself.  

Green bean & Chicken Skillet Dinner (4 servings)

from Skinny Taste blog

4 strips center cut bacon, chopped
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast cutlets
2 T shallots, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup white wine (or you can do all broth)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
8 oz green beans (I like the french green beans, or haricot vert)

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook until crisp, stirring often.  Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to a paper towel lined plate.  Discard all but a very thin coating of the bacon grease.

Season chicken with salt and pepper (both sides) and saute until just cooked through, about 4 minutes per side.  I had to do this in two batches.  Transfer to a plate and tent with foil.

Add the shallots to the empty skillet and saute for 1 minute.  Add a little olive oil if needed.  Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds more.  Add the broth, wine, thyme and rosemary and scrape up any of the brown bits in the pan.  Increase the heat to medium high and add the green beans.  Bring to a boil and cook until the green beans are tender and the pan sauce has reduced, about 6-8 minutes stirring occasionally.

Transfer chicken and green beans to a serving platter (or plate them individually as entrees) and sprinkle the green beans with salt and pepper.  Pour any chicken juice from the plate back into the pan sauce and stir.  Spoon the sauce over the chicken and green beans and top with bacon.


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Cranberry Orange Oatmeal Muffins

Another light recipe to help you keep your New Year's resolve.  This is low in sugar, low in calories and filling.  If you use gluten free oats, it's GF and I have been replacing the skim milk with almond milk.   These are a big hit at my house and I made a variation (below) with fresh blueberries when they were on sale last week.  Muffin may be a little misleading - these are more dense (think "filling and nutrient rich") but they are convenient singles to grab for breakfast and eat on the go.  I may have just eaten one for dessert . . .

Orange Cranberry Oatmeal Muffins (makes 1 dozen)
from Emily Bites Blog

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. skim milk (or almond milk)
1/2 c. unsweetened applesauce
1/4 c. freshly squeezed orange juice
zest of one large orange
2/3 cup halved fresh cranberries

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

Whisk together the egg white, egg, milk, applesauce, orange juice and zest in a large bowl.  Add the dry ingredients and stir until blended together.  Stir in the cranberries.  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.  (94 calories/3SP/single)

Lemon Blueberry Variation:  Use 3/4 cup greek yogurt (vanilla or blueberry flavor)  in place of the applesauce and orange juice.  Use lemon zest in place of orange and use 1 cup blueberries (whole, fresh) in place of the cranberries.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Happy New Year!

I was going to go back and post some Christmas memories, recipes and the like, but we had to get in gear for school and work (on the 3rd!) and I'm embracing the new year without looking back!  Do you make New Year's resolutions?  For the last few years, I've tried to write a focus word or phrase and use that as a mantra or goal for the year to come.  I'm not big on resolutions per se, but I try to visualize what that phrase or goal would look like for our family and set some objectives related to it.  One of my objectives, related to my 2017 focus, is to set down the extra cookie, the junk food that doesn't taste good or fill me up, the extra glass of wine and get back to the basics of cooking nourishing food for myself and my family.

I've been thinking lately that the blog is nearing its natural end.  I'm not sure I have much to say or contribute to this widely expanding online universe.  But, I made some light, delicious, and resolution-friendly recipes in the last few weeks and find myself back here documenting and recording my relationship with the food I eat.

Here's a recipe to start out your New Year - it's light, filling, quick, and versatile.  I've made it with both chicken and leftover roasted turkey.  I've added other vegetables and changed the seasoning (try rosemary if you don't have dill).  I also have sautéed the vegetables first but anyway you try it, this soup is delicious!

Chicken and Orzo Soup with Fennel (8 servings)

8 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced into rounds
1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced and then chopped
1 cup uncooked orzo
2 cups cooked boneless skinless chicken breast
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
3 T dill, fresh, chopped (or more to taste)

In a large soup pot, add the broth and bring to boil over high heat.  Add carrots, fennel, and orzo.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat to low and simmer until orzo and vegetables are tender (8-10 minutes).  Stir in chicken and cook until heated through.  Remove pot from heat.  Stir in lemon juice and dill.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Green Rice

"There are two kinds of people in the world:  people who wake up thinking about what to have for supper and people who don't." - Lynne Rosetto Kasper

I first read this quote in one of Shauna Niequiest's books and I immediately identified myself as the first kind of person.  I'm sitting here this morning dreaming about this green rice that my mom made a couple of months ago for us and wondering what I'm going to have for supper tonight.  It's warm, filling, and has an amazing flavor.  My mom served it as the base for these rice bowls which were super yummy, but it can stand on its own as a side dish in a lot of different types of meals.  I think it's passed up the cilantro-lime rice as my favorite!  I imagine that long grain white rice would work fine in place of the brown, but you may need to reduce the cooking time so it doesn't get mushy.

Green Rice (makes 3 cups)
From the Cookie and Kate blog

3 T olive oil
1.5 cups long grain brown rice
3 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups baby spinach, lightly packed
1/2 cup cilantro (mostly leaves, some stems are ok), lightly packed
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, membranes removed, roughly chopped
1 medium shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp salt (plus more to taste)

Place the spinach, cilantro, jalapeno, shallot, garlic, salt and 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth in a food processor or blender.  Process until smooth.

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat.  Add the rice and stir to coat.  Continue stirring until the rice begins to lightly brown.  Stir a little more until most of it is light brown and then add the green puree to the rice.  Stir to evenly coat the rice and stir constantly for a minute.  Add the rest of the broth and bring to a boil. 

Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let simmer until tender (35-40 minutes).  Remove from heat and let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!  This has been a year of changing plans.  We originally were going to Connecticut to be with cousins but decided that with my work schedule, it was going to be too short of a trip and wasn't going to work out.  Then, I was hopeful for a trip to Oregon to be with my sisters and parents but an opportunity came up related to a piece of property my husband bought, and the Oregon plan fell through too.  For the first time that I can remember, we'll be having Thanksgiving dinner in a restaurant and with just our kids.  I'm thankful for my family, for our jobs and the opportunities our work affords us, for my kids' school and education, for friends, for a healthy body, and especially for Jesus Christ and the limitless grace that I have inherited through him.

Only kindergarten did a Thanksgiving Feast this year.  The teacher's do a "Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" menu (chicken nuggets, deli turkey, mac & cheese, carrots, dip, jellybeans, popcorn) which I think is perfect if you want 6 year olds to actually eat!  One of the fun ideas was this pinterest inspired Thanksgiving "turkey" that was "carved" to reveal popcorn.

 Even though I'm not eating a traditional Thanksgiving, I'm thinking of surprising my husband with his favorite - a homemade apple pie.   Here's a good recipe that I've had lots of luck with.  You can make your own homemade pie crust or buy a refrigerated one (I won't judge).  I like this Cook's Illustrated version.

Apple Pie (makes 1 pie)
from Simply Recipes

Your favorite pie crust

3 pounds of good cooking apples (I used Fuji)
1 T lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
3 T flour
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 T brandy (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg yolk
1 T cream

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Peel, core and slice the apples.  As you cut your apples, add them to a large bowl with the lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to prevent browning.

Combine the sugar, flour, and spices in another bowl.  Add the flour mixture to the apple slices and mix so that the flour is evenly distributed and slices are well coated.  Then, sprinkle with brandy and vanilla and stir to coat all of the apple slices.

Let the apples sit while you line your 9 inch pie pan with the bottom crust.  Arrange the apple slices on top of the bottom crust and mound them in the center.

Place your top crust over the apples, trim the edges and crimp the edges together with the bottom crust.  In a small bowl, use a fork or whisk to combine the egg yolk and cream.  Use a pastry brush to brush the egg wash over the top and edges of the pie.  Cut slits in the top crust for steam vents.

Place pie in the oven and bake for 20 minutes or until the crust starts to lightly brown.  Then, reduce the heat to 350 and bake until the crust is golden and you can see the juice bubbling through the steam vents.  This will take about 40-60 more minutes.  Check it halfway through baking and if it's getting too brown, place a piece of aluminum foil just lightly over the whole thing (Just set it on top - it doesn't need to only cover the edges).

Transfer to a rack to cool for about an hour before serving.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Favorite Food

What's your favorite food?  It's so hard to pick just one, but if I had to, I'd probably go with burritos. Or, maybe tacos.  Big's favorite food is salmon and Little's is Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Middle, she loves pancakes.  She's not much of a breakfast eater and we struggle some mornings to get some food in her belly before kindergarten, but pancakes do the trick.  I make a hot breakfast once or twice during the week and on Sundays we've been making pancakes together.  Our Saturdays have had early soccer games and we rush out of the house but hopefully this winter that will change.

Middle loves to help make her favorite food and her signature touch is mini chocolate chips sprinkled on the pancakes while they're on the griddle.  This recipe is from my mom and is tried and true.  I realized that while there are pumpkin pancakes, banana pancakes, almond pancakes and other variations already on the blog, this one had yet to make an appearance.  So, here it is.  Almost as easy as a mix!

Grammy's Pancakes (serves 4)

1 cup flour
2 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 beaten egg
1 c. milk
2 T cooking oil.

Whisk together egg, milk and oil with a whisk.  Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir until just blended.  Cook on hot griddle.

*Middle suggests after pouring batter on the griddle, sprinkling with mini chocolate chips.