Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Butternut Squash & Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese

Wow . . . the holidays.  We had so much fun with our girls, spending time with family, and many Christmas events.   It's too hard to pick favorite moments, or even photos but here are a couple:
New pjs and a giraffe hat for the baby

This photo may be blurry but it totally captures her immediate excitement when she opened the hobby horse.
The littlest member of our family has started eating something other than breastmilk!

But, I have to say, I've had way too much sugar lately and don't really want to see another cookie for awhile.  At least for a week.  The other night, I made this for dinner.  It was a good departure from the heavy food we've consumed lately, an interesting balance of textures and flavors, and contains lots of nutrients.

Originally from Bon Appetit 10/09, I came across the recipe on Smitten Kitchen awhile ago.  Do you know my obsession with goat cheese?  I'm surprised I haven't made this sooner.  I didn't have the hot smoky paprika so I used Penzey's Spanish Paprika and a little cayenne.  The spice coating on the butternut squash burnt a bit while the squash was roasting.  I also used plain, brown lentils instead of French lentils.  Don't skip the mint leaves or the goat cheese . . . they made the salad!

Butternut Squash & Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese 
3 main course servings or 6 first course servings

3/4 cup lentils (original recipe says French green lentils)
  • 6 cups 1-inch pieces peeled seeded butternut squash (appx one 2lb squash)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon hot smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Soak lentils in cold water for 10 minutes.  Drain.  Cook in a pot of boiling salted water until tender but firm, about 30 minutes.  Rinse under cold water, drain and set aside.

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Toss the squash with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the cumin, paprika and sea salt.  Roast on a rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes.  Flip with a spatula and roast for another 10-15 minutes or until squash is tender but not mushy.  Cool.

Mix lentils, roasted squash, 1 tablespoon of oil, arugula, mint, vinegar, and half of the goat cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  After plating the salad, sprinkle the rest of the goat cheese on top.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Molasses Spice Cookies

This is my best, favorite, tried and true Christmas cookie recipe.  It's originally from America's Test Kitchen but was passed on to me by my friend Eileen.  If you want a great cookie for the holiday season, make these!

Some Tips:
-       I often make the dough a few hours or the night before and refrigerate it so it doesn’t stick to my hands when forming the balls.  An alternative would be to moisten your hands occasionally with cold tap water when shaping the balls to prevent sticking.
-       For stronger flavor, use dark molasses.
-       If you want, you can skip the orange zest part but I like the flavor of it.  My friend Amber uses colored decorating sugar (red & green) to make these look more Christmasy.
-      A double batch will fit in the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer.

Molasses Spice Cookies  (2 dozen)
from America's Test Kitchen                                                                     

1/3 c. granulated sugar, plus ½ cup for dipping
1-2 tsp. orange zest
2 ¼ cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 ½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp finely ground black pepper
¼ tsp salt
12 T. (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c. packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup light or dark molasses

  1. Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Combine ½ cup sugar and orange zest in a food processor.  Place sugar/orange mixture in a pie pan for dipping.
  2. Whisk flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in medium bowl until thoroughly combined; set aside.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter with brown sugar and remaining 1/3 cup sugar at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Reduce speed to medium-low nad add yolk and vanilla.  Increase speed to medium and beat until incorporated, about 20 seconds.  Reduce speed to medium-low and add molasses; beat until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds, scraping bottom and sides of bowl once with rubber spatula.  Reduce speed to lowest setting; add flour mixture and beat until just incorporated, about 30 seconds, scraping bowl down once.  Give dough a final stir by hand to ensure that no pockets of flour remain at bottom.  Dough will be soft.
  4. Using a tablespoon measure, scoop heaping tablespoon of dough and roll it between your palms into a ball.  Drop ball into pie pan with sugar and repeat to form about 4 balls.  Toss balls in sugar to coat and set on prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Bake one sheet at a time until cookies are browned, still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft (cookies will look raw between the cracks and seem underdone), about 11 minutes.  Do NOT overbake. 
  5. Cool cookies on baking sheet for 5 minutes then transfer to wire rack.  Cool cookies to room temperature.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

I love the holidays!  Before we get to the cake I just made, let me say that our December has been so much fun so far and we have many more fun activities to come.  My nephew being born has been one of the highlights of December so far but I don't have any photos of that to share.  Here are some photos of decorating the tree, watching the Christmas Parade at Disneyland (and seeing the fake snow), and big sister's first Christmas program at preschool.

I have 4 girlfriends that I get together with about once a week (I know - that's amazing, right?).  Tonight I'm hosting the annual Christmas party that we have  We're just having dessert, drinks, a gift exchange (something used or made - not new), and for the first time this year, we're all supposed to wear "ugly Christmas sweaters."  If you know me very well, you know I don't like to dress up as something for parties so this obviously wasn't my idea!  But, it'll be fun and I'm excited to have a grown-up Christmas party with my friends.  Here's what I'm making:

Champagne Cosmopolitans

Put a little bit of Triple Sec, a squeeze of fresh lime juice and about 2 tablespoons of cranberry juice in a champange glass.  Top with champagne and serve with a slice of lime.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake (serves 8)

1 1/2 c. whole cranberries
6 T butter
6 T brown sugar

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter and flour the sides of a springform pan.  Wrap the bottom of the pan in foil and set the pan on a baking sheet. In a small saucepan, melt the 6 T butter.  Whisk in the brown sugar and stir for a few minutes until well combined.  Pour on the bottom of the springform pan.  Spread the cranberries over the butter sugar mixture making sure they're in a single layer.  Set aside.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Cream the 1/2 c. / 1 stick butter with the sugar.  Add the yolks, one at a time, until well combined.  Add the extracts.  Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk.  Make sure it's all combined but don't overmix.  In a separate large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry.  Add one-fourth of the egg whites to the cake batter and stir it in to lighten the batter.  Then, very gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the batter until no streaks remain.  Spoon batter over the cranberry topping.  

Bake for 45-55 minutes until the top of the cake is lightly browned and a tester comes out clean.  Cool in the pan on a rack for 15 minutes.  Invert onto a serving platter.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Crockpot Lasagna

I've been wanting to try lasagna in my crockpot for awhile and finally made it.  The recipe I used was from one of those email recipe exchanges and I made it just like it was written.  I've never substituted cottage cheese for ricotta in a lasagna before and it wasn't bad but I love ricotta and will probably change the recipe a little next time.  I like the method but it would be good with ricotta instead of cottage cheese, some additional spices, and maybe sausage instead of the ground beef.

The day I made it, I was really distracted because my sister in law was having a baby (my new little nephew is just perfect!) so I forgot about dinner until late afternoon.  I did one hour on high and then 2 hours on low and the noodles were soft.  I think the 4 hours on low would work perfectly.  My husband and big sister both really liked it and the leftovers were good too.

Crock Pot Lasagna
1 pound lean group beef
jar spaghetti sauce
2 cups cottage cheese
2 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
6 whole Lasagna noodles, uncooked
1/4 cup water

Brown ground beef in frying pan and drain fat.  Line the bottom of the crock pot with a small amount of spaghetti sauce.  Add the rest of the jar of sauce to the ground beef in the frying pan along with the water.  Stir until well blended.  In the crock pot, place 2-3 uncooked lasagna noodles that are broken to fit the shape (some overlap is fine).  

Cover the noodles with half of the cottage cheese, Mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan cheese, then top cheeses with half of the meat sauce mixture.  Repeat the layers with the other half of the ingredients.  Cook on low for 4 hours.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Persimmon Cake

Remember how much I love persimmons?  This year I wasn't given a ton like last year, but I found them at a little produce store by my house for $.69/pound (Ralphs was charging $1.99 each!!!) and my sister in law gave me a bag full.  So, I'm having fun baking with them.

First up, a persimmon cake.  A few weeks ago, I made half of the recipe below (but no nuts) and baked it in three mini loaf pans for about 20 minutes.  The next time I made it, I used the recipe below and a bundt pan.  The original recipe has a little more sugar, instructs you to bake it longer (mine was done in 45 minutes and I probably should have checked it a little sooner) and has the addition of 3/4 c. raisins.  I also inadvertently used a whole teaspoon of nutmeg.   Moist spice cake with the lingering taste of clove and perfect complement to the persimmons.

Fuyu Bundt Cake 
adapted from Sunset magazine

2 tsp. baking soda
3 c. chopped firm Fuyus
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 1/3 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 c. chopped walnuts

Grease and flour a bundt cake pan. Preheat oven to 350.  Blend the baking soda into the chopped firm Fuyus. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar. Add eggs, lemon juice, and vanilla and beat until fluffy. Stir in Fuyu mix.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, ground cloves,  cinnamon, and  nutmeg. Stir flour into Fuyu mixture just until blended. Add chopped walnuts and raisins.

Pour into prepared bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 45 - 55 minutes or until toothpick tests clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes. Turn onto rack.  Serve warm or room temperature.  I served it with whipped cream but you could make a simple icing and drizzle it on the top.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tortellini Soup

We had tortellini soup at a friend's house a few weeks ago and I've been wanting to make it ever since.  Last night after church, I realized that I had most of the ingredients I thought I needed and I made up this recipe.  It was pretty good - my husband said that fresh tortellini (the kind you buy refrigerated as opposed to the dry stuff I used) would have made it better.  And, of course, he doused his portion with red chili flakes.  The tortellini absorbed more liquid than I thought so I added some hot water at the end.  You can up the amount of broth in the recipe or use the whole can of diced tomatoes to avoid that problem.

Tortellini Soup (serves 2)

2 links spicy Italian sausage
1/4 c. chopped onion
1/2 tsp. oregano
2 cans chicken broth
1/2 can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
1 1/2 c. dried cheese tortellini
Fresh parmesan cheese

Take the sausage out of the casings, crumble and brown in a large pot with the onion. Drain the grease.   Add the oregano, tomatoes, and broth and bring to a boil.  Add the tortellini and cook until it's soft (at least the length of time that the package says).  After putting the soup in bowls, grate the parmesan cheese over the top of it (or use a vegetable peeler to make thin strips) and serve!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Another holiday dessert

I distinctly remember being a kid and not understanding why anyone would choose the brown pie with the nuts when they could be eating pumpkin pie or apple pie.  Then, one Thanksgiving I tried it and I fell in love. Even with the loss of my childish innocence as to what makes that sugary gooey goodness (corn syrup, butter and sugar), pecan pie is my favorite holiday pie.  I've done variations (added cranberries, chocolate chips, made it into bars) but the plain 'ol original is still the best.

I brought a pecan pie to Thanksgiving at my mom's this year.  In other Thanksgiving news, my 3 year old daughter ran a WHOLE MILE at a kid's run in La Canada.  I didn't think she'd be able to run the whole distance but her little legs just kept going!

I'm toying with the idea of posting only desserts until Christmas because face it, what are the holidays without an extra 10 pounds and way too much sugar?  We'll see if any protein or main dishes make it onto the blog in the next 23 days.  Wait . . . nuts are a good source of protein.  So maybe pecan pie is good for you after all!

Pecan Pie (8 servings)
recipe from my mom

1 uncooked pie crust
3 eggs
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 c. dark Karo syrup
1 c. pecans (halves, not chopped)

Make or buy a pie crust and put it into a pie pan.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Beat eggs until foamy (I use a whisk, but you could also use a mixer).  Add butter, vanilla, sugar and salt.  Beat well.  Add Karo syrup.  Beat until foamy.  Pour into pie pan.  Pour pecans on top "and sink them with a fork or something."  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the center is only a little jiggly and starting to crack.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday Bundt Cake

This recipe from Dorie Greenspan has been floating around the internet for awhile and I was pretty skeptical.  It seemed like it would be too chunky or fruitcakey for my taste.  But, a couple of weeks ago we were invited somewhere for dinner and I wanted to make a dessert and not go to the grocery store again.  I happened to have all these ingredients on hand and I gave it a try. 

It was awesome.  Easy to make, rave reviews, not much left, and looks great - your new holiday go to cake.  The next time I make it, I might substitute Fuyu persimmons for the apples but other than that, it's really a great recipe.

Make a bundt, trim the tree and have a fun beginning of the holiday season!

All in One Holiday Bundt (12 servings)
by Dorie Greenspan

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger (or 1 tsp ground ginger)
1 1/4 sticks (10 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting or maple syrup icing (see note)
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9- to 10- inch (12 cup) Bundt pan. Don’t place the pan on a baking sheet-you want the oven’s heat to circulate freely through the Bundt’s inner tube.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and ground ginger, if you’re using it (not the grated ginger).
Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and both sugars together at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and beat for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the pumpkin, chopped apple and grated ginger, if you’re using it-don’t be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Still on low speed, add the dry ingredients, mixing only until they are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, stir in the cranberries and pecans. Scrape the batter into the pan and smooth the top with the rubber spatula.
Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before unmolding, then cool to room temperature on the rack.

Maple Icing:
Sift 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and stir in 2 tablespoons maple syrup. Add more maple syrup little by little, until you have an icing that runs nicely off the tip of the spoon — you might need another 1/2 tablespoon syrup to get the right consistency. Let the icing set for a few minutes before serving.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Chocolate Mousse

Photo by Lisa

My college roommate and I are still the best of friends.  We see each other about once a week and she's been a huge support for me these past months since baby girl was born.  Today is her birthday!  On Friday night we celebrated with some girl friends, champagne cosmopolitans, and chocolate mousse.  

Some food memories that I have associated with this friend are our college days of eating lemon pepper chicken and quesadillas for dinner, lobsters in Costa Rica, baking Christmas cookies and food gifts (truffles & mini-loaves of pumpkin bread), and, of course, her epic corned beef on St. Patrick's day.  A, here's wishing you a very happy birthday and a wonderful new year of being you!

Decadent Chocolate Mousse (8-10 servings)
  • from Sunset 12/10

  • 18  ounces  bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2  cup  strong coffee
  • 1/3  cup  sugar
  • 6  large eggs, separated
  • 1 1/2  cups  heavy cream
  • 1/4  cup  orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier
Put chocolate, coffee, and sugar in a large metal mixing bowl. Set bowl over a large pot filled with 1 in. simmering water. Melt chocolate, stirring often, until smooth. Remove from heat and set aside.
Whisk egg whites in a medium bowl with a mixer until they hold stiff peaks. Whisk cream in another bowl until soft ribbons form.  Stir yolks into warm chocolate mixture. Mix in liqueur. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in whites until almost blended, then gently fold in whipped cream until no streaks remain.
Pour chocolate mixture into a large (8-cup) glass serving bowl. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve. Serve with sweetened whipped cream.  We topped it with candy cane Joe Joe's and Heath bars as well :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stuffing for Thanksgiving

I know if you're making stuffing, you've probably already chosen a recipe and bought the ingredients (Whole Foods was absolutely crazy on Monday morning), but in case you're still undecided, here's what I'm making.  I've made it twice before with good results and figured I wouldn't venture out and experiment this year.  One note - to get the 10 cups of bread cubes, you might need two loaves of bread (only 1 is called for ingredient list).

While I'm on the topic of Thanksgiving, here are just a few of the blessings I'm thankful for this year:

Healthy, happy girls who sleep at night
A loving husband to share my life with
Time with my family (and a new niece or nephew!) this holiday season
Life Christian Fellowship
Understanding friends who have supported me in life's changes this year
A new house we'll move into in 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Country Bread Stuffing with Goat Cheese and Cranberries 
(serves 8-10)
adapted from Bon Appetit 11/06

1 (1 pound) loaf crusty white bread (like ciabatta)
1/4 c. olive oil
4 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
1 large garlic clove, minced
6 T butter
1 1/2 c. finely chopped onion
1 1/2 c. finely sliced celery
1 c. finely chopped green bell pepper
1/3 c. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1 3/4 c. low sodium chicken broth, heated
4 oz. chilled goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Butter a 9x13 glass pan.  Cut bottom crust and short ends off bread.  Cut remaining bread into 1 inch cubes (should yield about 10 cups loosely packed).  Place in a large bowl and add olive oil, thyme and garlic and toss together.  Spread out on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Bake until golden and slightly crunchy, stirring often, about 20 minutes.  Return to same large bowl.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, celery and bell pepper.  Saute until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.  Mix in parsley and cranberries.

Stir the vegetables into the bread crumbs.  Add hot broth, tossing to coat.  Mix in cheese.  Transfer to the glass pan.  Cover with buttered foil (butter side down!).  Bake about 25 minutes, until heated through.  Uncover and bake until the top is brown, about 25 minutes more and serve!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Gingerbread time!

Last week I had my first gingerbread latte at Starbucks and a piece of their gingerbread loaf.  In general, I don't really care for Starbucks baked goods but the pumpkin loaf and gingerbread loaf are pretty good.  Ever since I had that slice of their gingerbread, I wanted to make some of my own and I bought a jar of molasses on my next trip to the grocery store.

So, even though we haven't hit Thanksgiving yet, I give you permission to enjoy all things gingerbread this holiday season.

Sour Cream Gingerbread (8-10 servings)
adapted from Fannie Farmer Cookbook via this blog

2 eggs
1/2 c. sour cream
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. molasses
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a cake pan (or 8x8 square).  Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and spices and set aside.  In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs for a minute or two.  Add the sour cream, brown sugar, and molasses and beat until smooth.  Stir in the dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour in the butter and beat the mixture until smooth.  Bake for 25-35 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Fall days

How is it already November 18??  We're going to big sister's preschool for "Thanksgiving Feast" tomorrow (vegetable soup made by toddlers . . . yum?) and real Thanksgiving is only a week away.  Even though it's fall and not spring, some things have been growing around our house:

Big sister's plants

Piles of laundry & diapers

The baby (15 weeks old!)

The fall craft projects hanging on the kitchen wall

Here's a fall side dish for you to try.  It'll easily round out a fall supper menu and tastes great.  We polished this off (3 adults and 1 kid) last night.  I started it in the afternoon and let the cooked wild rice sit until dinner time when I added the rest of the stuff to it.  It can be served warm or at room temperature and will be fine in the refrigerator for a few days.  And, it looks pretty!

Wild Rice Pilaf (serves 6)
from Martha Stewart

1 T olive oil
1 small shallot, diced
1 c. wild rice
2 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 c. toasted pecans
1/4 c. dried cranberries
2 T chopped flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper

Saute the shallot in the olive oil until soft.  Add the rice and saute for 1 minute.  Stir in the stock and let it come to a boil.  Cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes or until the rice is soft.  Stir in the pecans, cranberries, parsley, salt and pepper and serve!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chili & Cornbread

I bought sweet potatoes to make homemade sweet potato fries the other night and was looking for something to make with the leftover sweet potatoes when I remembered a recipe for Black bean and Sweet Potato Chili.  It's a hearty vegetarian chili with a good balance of sweet and spicy.  I overdid it a little this time on the spice so add the red pepper flakes and chiles to suit your palate.

You could serve the chili over steamed rice for a little heartier meal.  My friend Will (happy birthday!) brought us some homemade dark pumpkin beer (stout?) which was really good.  I substituted his beer for some of the broth in the chili and it was a nice flavor - you could do that with any dark beer.

We ate the chile with homemade cornbread.  I've been on a quest to make good cornbread without using a mix.  My previous try resulted in bad reviews from my husband and daughter (and I'll admit, I wasn't crazy about it) because I made it with no white flour or sugar.

This time around I really got what I was looking for.  It's Mark Bittman's recipe and I have had great luck trying his stuff.  I think the technique of melting the butter first helped a lot - the crispy edges were fantastic.  I added half a can of green chiles and about 3/4 cup of finely shredded cheddar cheese to it.  You can bake it plain like the recipe below or add stuff to jazz it up.

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili (about 2 quarts)

2 T olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 large sweet potato, diced
2 T - 1/4 c. diced green chiles (or fresh diced jalapeno)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 T chili powder
1 tsp salt
1-2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1-2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram
1 bay leaf
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
3-4 cups vegetable broth
2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed & drained
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 T)
Chopped cilantro (for garnish)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium, and cook about 10 minutes or until the onion is soft.  Add the bell peppers, green chile, and sweet potato.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir and cook for 1 minute.  Add the chili powder and the rest of the spices and cook another minute.

Add the tomatoes and broth.  Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender but not total mush.  Stir in the beans and cook another 10 minutes.  Remove the bay leaf and add the lime juice.  Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Here's the recipe for Mark Bittman's Cornbread

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Baked Pasta with Chicken & Broccoli

Quick rant:  I have had a love/hate relationship with Trader Joe's for awhile.  Love certain products, low prices, and good expiration dates on dairy products.  Hate how they discontinue my favorite things, are often out of what I need, and have bad expiration dates on bread products.

Lately, the scale is tipping towards strongly dislike.  Today, I had a short list and ran into Trader Joe's while big sister was at her gym class.  They had everything except cilantro.  Cilantro.  I really need it for dinner tonight and now I have to make a whole trip to another store with two little girls for one ingredient.  This time I'm holding a grudge.  So irritating!

Anyways, now that's off my chest and we can move on to baked pasta.  This is really glorified mac & cheese with some protein and green vegetable thrown in for good measure.  I was dreaming up ways to use the vegetable I had on hand and the extra baked chicken breasts from the night before, and this was the result.

I made it in less than a half hour last night.  If you have longer, you could bake it at 400 for an extra 15-20 minutes (before turning on the broiler to really melt the cheese on top) and I bet it would be even better.  It would be more nutritious if you used whole grain / whole wheat pasta.  The kid loved it.

Baked Pasta with Chicken and Broccoli (serves 4)

1/2 - 3/4 pound pasta (medium size - I used rotini but I bet shells or macaroni would be good)
1 chicken breast, cooked, cut into small pieces
1 cup broccoli cut into small florets
1 T butter
2 T flour
2 c. milk
2 c. grated cheese (I used Gruyere, cheddar would work fine)
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Boil the pasta according to your package directions.  Throw the broccoli in for the last 2 minutes and drain everything together.  While the pasta is cooking, melt the butter in a large saucepan.  Add the flour and stir for about a minute.  Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until it's slightly thickened (about 4-5 minutes).  Add 1 1/2 c. of the cheese and stir until melted  then add the nutmeg, salt and pepper.

Toss the cheese sauce with the pasta/broccoli mixture, and the chicken.  Pour into a greased baking dish (I used 8 inch square but any 1 1/2 or 2 qt dish will work).  Sprinkle the rest of the cheese (grated cheese and the parmesan) on top and put it under the broiler in your oven until melty and golden - about 3-4 minutes.  Keep a close eye on it so it doesn't burn!

Instead of broiling, you could also pop it into a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Lamb Chops with Apricot Pumpkin Glaze

It felt like fall today!  The weather had a crispness to it and the sunshine seemed more like fall light to me.  There was enough wind to fly big sister's kite!  Very exciting.  And them, tonight we had friends over for a pumpkin themed dinner.  This was the menu (and it was pretty spectacular!):

First course:  Roast Pumpkin Fondue with crackers and apples
Second course:  Mixed green salad with pears and roasted pumpkin seeds
Third course:  Baked penne pasta with pumpkin sauce
Fourth course:  Lamb chops with apricot pumpkin glaze, brussel sprouts with crispy leeks
Dessert:  Pumpkin cupcakes muffins with cream cheese frosting

It was delicious!  I was so busy cooking and enjoying that I didn't shoot a single picture.  So, without a photo, here is the recipe for the lamb chops.  My sister-in -law made these for us a few weeks ago and we loved them.  To go with the pumpkin theme, I added the pumpkin and brown sugar to the recipe but you could omit those two ingredients and keep the rest the same.

Lamb Chops with Apricot Pumpkin Glaze (4 servings)
adapted from Cooking Light 6/05

1/2 c. apricot preserves
2 T. canned pumpkin
2 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
8 lamb chops

Combine the apricot preserves, pumpkin, brown sugar, mustard, soy sauce, garlic, and worcestershire sauce in a bowl and set aside.  Mix the salt, cinnamon, and pepper and sprinkle on both sides of the lamb chops.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Cook the lamb chops about 3 minutes each side or a little longer if you want them more well-done (time will depend on how thick your chops are and how well done you want the chops but don't flip them too much).

Add the sauce to the pan for the last minute or so.  When you plate the lamb chops, put a little of the sauce on top of each one.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My 200th Post

For this, my #200 post on my blog, I offer this picture tutorial on making a pumpkin cake.  I'm pretty proud of myself for making something that has to be decorated after my previous decorating disasters.  Happy belated birthday to Stephanie, my foodie friend and partner in crime!

A few notes:
I made spice cakes and vanilla frosting.  The stem is a green ice cream cone (Ralphs carries colored cones for 99 cents a box).  I used green fruit roll ups (green apple flavor) for the decorations and cut them out with a sharp knife.  The food coloring was a bit of a challenge and it looked pink, not orange, for a long time!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Must. Stop. Eating. The. Candy.

What we gave out for Halloween (so I wouldn't sit around eating leftover candy):
*The fruit snacks are gluten-free

What big sister brought home from trick-or-treating:

What I'm doing . . . while she naps so she doesn't catch me:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Banana Pancakes

Can't think of much better on a rainy Saturday morning than cuddling with my girls, making banana pancakes, and listening to some Jack Johnson.  These pancakes were perfect with a little maple syrup and they're a good way to use up ripe bananas.  Enjoy!

Banana Pancakes (4 servings)

1 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 cup milk
2 T vegetable oil
2 ripe bananas, mashed

Combine dry ingredients with a whisk.  In a separate bowl, mix the wet ingredients.  Stir flour mixture into banana mixture - batter will be a little lumpy.  Pour batter onto a heated, buttered pan or griddle and cook until pancakes are golden brown on each side.  

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Buttermilk Coffeecake

This is what I brought to the pumpkin carving party with our friends.  I really like coffee cake and have been looking for a good, basic recipe.  This got good reviews from friends and my little sous chef (see cowgirl in the post below!) and I think I've found what I'm looking for.  I liked how there wasn't a bunch of butter in the crumble topping and the cake was moist and light.  Perfect with a cup of cider of coffee!

Buttermilk Cinnamon Coffee Cake

2 1/4 c. flour
1 c. brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon (divided)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
3/4 c. canola oil
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. oats
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 c. buttermilk
1 egg

Whisk together the flour, sugars, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, salt and ginger in a large bowl until well combined.  Remove 3/4 c. of the mixture and put it in a smaller bowl.  In that smaller bowl, add the remaining teaspoon cinnamon, the almonds and oats.  This will be your topping but set it aside for now.  

Back in the big bowl, add the baking powder, baking soda, buttermilk and egg.  Stir until it's smooth.  Spread in a buttered 9x13 pan.  Sprinkle the topping over the batter.  Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.

What to do with your pumpkin seeds

I never really know what to do except roast them in the oven with a little salt.  This year, I tried a new technique and a new spice combination and it was awesome!  You only dry the seeds in the oven - the toasting happens on the stovetop and the spices are added after that.  This isn't the low-sugar option but it was delicious!  Big sister declared them "Yum."

I know it's not Halloween yet, but here are some photos of the girls from today.

Big sister in her cowgirl costume:

The pumpkin dad carved for her:

The little pumpkin:

And, the toasted seeds:

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds (makes 1 cup)
from Martha Stewart's website

1 cup pumpkin seeds, fresh out of the pumpkin and rinsed
4 T sugar
1 T vegetable oil
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
cayenne pepper to taste

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (I think foil would work fine) and spread the pumpkin seeds in a single layer.  Bake in a 250 degree oven for about an hour, stirring once or twice.  You want the seeds to be really dry but not toasted or brown.

Mix the spices in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the sugar.  Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.  Add the pumpkin seeds and remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.  Toast, stirring constantly, until the sugar melts and the seeds caramelize and turn light brown - about 45 seconds - 2 minutes.

Dump the seeds right into the bowl with the spices and stir well to coat the seeds.  Let them cool off and enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Pumpkin Ice Cream

'Tis the season . . . not much to say about this except for I was glad to have friends over to dinner to share it with, otherwise, I would have eaten way too much :)  It was creamy, a good blend of spices, and delicious.  I'm imagining ice cream sandwiches with this ice cream between some gingersnaps!

Pumpkin Ice Cream (makes 1 qt)

2 c. heavy cream
1 c. milk
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
2 t. vanilla extract
3 egg yolks
1 c. canned pumpkin
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/8 tsp. salt

Heat cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, until almost boiling.  Whisk egg yolks together in a small bowl.  Add hot milk, a few tablespoons at a time to temper the eggs.  Add the egg yolks to the saucepan.  Heat for 5-10 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon.  Don't let it boil.

Refrigerate the milk mixture until cooled.  In a bowl, whisk together the pumpkin and the rest of the spices.  Add to the cooled milk mixture.  Refrigerate a few hours or overnight.  Freeze according to your ice cream maker's instructions.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

Hooray for some cooler weather!  This is a great fall soup - sweeter than other butternut squash soups that I've made but filling and tasty.  It served 3 adults and I was wishing there was a little more.  It would be easy to double the recipe.  If you do that, don't overdo it with the broth - just enough to cover the squash and you can add more later if the soup is too thick.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup (2-4 servings)


1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (I think mine was about 2 lbs)
1 gala apple, peeled and diced
1 small onion, diced
4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
1/4 c. apple juice
1 T. butter
1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion and nutmeg and saute until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes.  Add the squash, 4 c. vegetable broth, apple, and apple juice.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer (uncovered) until squash and apple are tender, about 30 minutes.  

Puree soup in a blender and return to the pot (I used my hand blender right in the pot, off of the heat).  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Bring it back to a simmer.  Thin the soup with more broth if it's thicker than you'd like it to be.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Breakfast for my Biggest Fan

My husband is my biggest fan.  He doesn't regularly read this blog, but he inspires ideas for recipes, compliments my cooking on a regular basis, and overlooks the grocery bills.  When we first got married, he did a lot of the cooking because I wasn't the greatest cook.  I owe a lot of my improvement in that area to his constructive criticism:  "This is really good but it would be even better if you . . . "

Since my husband loves baked apple desserts (apple pie, apple fritters, apple crisps etc.), for his birthday breakfast this year, I tried to recreate a baked apple pancake that we had in a restaurant awhile back. It turned out really good, but super sweet.  Next time, I think I might skip the butter & cinnamon sugar that I put on the top and serve it with a little maple syrup on the side.

Happy birthday honey!

Baked Apple Pancake (4 servings)

3 T unsalted butter (divided)
2 medium Gala apples, peeled and thinly sliced
3 eggs
1/4 c. brown sugar (divided)
pinch of salt
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in an ovenproof skillet.  Add the apple slices and heat until tender, about 8-10 minutes.  Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and stir to combine.  Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs, salt, milk & flour in a bowl.  Pour over the apples in the skillet.  Bake in the oven until puffy, about 10 minutes. While the pancake is baking, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and the cinnamon.

Remove the puffed pancake from the oven, dot with 1 tablespoon of butter that you've cut into small pieces, and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar.  Put it back into the oven for another 10 minutes, until browned.   Slice and serve.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

No Ham Bone

At Christmas time, my dad always received a honey baked ham from someone he did work with.  When the ham was gone, my mom would sometimes make split pea soup with the ham bone.  Over the years, I've tried unsuccessfully to make split pea soup and the reason it wasn't flavorful was simple:  no ham bone.

Well, I tried it again today (still no ham bone) and it turned out decent.  I think the amount of diced ham really helped.  It looked like a lot going into the crockpot, but the proportions were good in the final product.  I also think slow cooking yielded better results than making it on the stovetop.  I'd like to add another spice (just salt, pepper and bay leaf in this version) the next time I try it but I was undecided this morning about what that should be.  Celery seed?  Thyme?  Paprika?

One bonus about this recipe - super cheap to make for the yield.  I have no tips about vegetarian split pea soup because I haven't had any luck trying that in the past.

Look for more soup recipes coming your way - one of my favorite things to make during the fall and winter.

Split Pea Soup (makes about 8 cups)

16 oz bag dried split peas
2 cups diced ham (I used a little thicker cut of ham - not the thin deli sliced)
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped carrot
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
5 cups boiling water

Layer the ingredients in your slow cooker in the order listed (peas on the bottom, pour the boiling water over the top) and cook.  The original recipe (don't know where it's from) said 4-6 hours on high.  I did high for 3 hours, low for 2 hours, let it cool and reheated it at dinner time.  You basically want the vegetables to be soft, the soup to be thick, and nothing to burn to the bottom of your slow cooker.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Real Reason She Bakes With Me

I let her lick the spoons, bowl, and mixer attachments when we're done!  

And yes, she dresses herself these days.  Got to love the "matching" stripes.

The afternoon of this picture we were making a Chocolate Zucchini Cake.  I know it sounds a little gross at first, but I've seen these recipes around forever and always wanted to try one out.  The taste was pretty good and the zucchini adds some good moisture to the cake and allows you to cut down on the fat (see the amounts of oil & butter below) but I had some air bubbles in the batter.  I think the texture of the cake would have turned out better if I didn't overmix it.  And, I'll share a little bit of the blame with my sous chef who loves cranking up the speed on my stand mixer.  When I'm not looking.  Or when I've just added flour or cocoa powder.  It's a mess, but still a lot of fun.

I also wasn't crazy about the one-bowl method in the recipe I used from the King Arthur Flour website so I changed it in the recipe below.  I was, however, a fan of the way that the icing is done . . . pretty nifty!  If you want to make a 9x13 pan, double the recipe below and bake it between 30 and 35 minutes.

Chocolate Zucchini  Cake (one 8x8 pan)
original recipe here

1/4 cup butter, room temperature 
1/4 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup  granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1/4 cup (4 ounces) sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt
1 1/4 cups  All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup plus 2 T cocoa powder
1 teaspoon1 espresso powder, optional but tasty
1 cups shredded zucchini
1/2 cup (3 ounces) chocolate chips, for icing
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lighlty grease a 8" x 8" pan. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, oil, sugar and vanilla.  Beat in the eggs.In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, espresso powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.  Stir in the sour cream, buttermilk, or yogurt alternately with the flour mixture. Finally, fold in the zucchini.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake the cake for 27 to 30 minutes, till the top springs back lightly when touched, and it seems set. Slide the cake out of the oven, sprinkle it evenly with the 1/2 cup chocolate chips, and return it to the oven for 5 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove the cake from the oven, and use a cake spatula or rubber spatula to spread the chocolate chips into a smooth glaze. Cool on a rack.