Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Balsamic Chicken & Oven Baked Risotto

Merry Christmas to all of you!  This week between the holidays is a little weird - Claremont is empty and I'm wondering where everyone went.  Big sister had preschool today and there were only 5 kids there in the whole preschool.  Maybe everyone is vacationing somewhere tropical?  I might normally be jealous of that idea, but right now I'm happy to be home (not having to go on an airplane anywhere) and enjoying some time with family.  We're hosting family dinner tonight and headed back to my mom's on Thursday night - fun!

So, did you know that you can make risotto in the oven?  It actually turned out awesome with a lot less hands on time.  I'll be making it again soon!  I only made a very basic version with parmesan cheese but I bet a lot of risotto flavors / variations would work with this technique.  I made it to go with a favorite chicken recipe that's never made it on the blog so both recipes are below.  Usually I do the pan sauce for the chicken like the recipe below, but this time, I skipped it and just sliced and served the chicken over the risotto.  I put a little caprese salad garnish on top . . . would have been better on the side because the chicken and risotto made it warm and it wasn't great that way.

Balsamic Roasted Chicken (serves 4)
from Giada de Laurentis

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4-6 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or pieces)
  • 1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in small bowl to blend. Combine the vinaigrette and chicken pieces in a large resealable plastic bag; seal the bag and toss to coat. Refrigerate, turning the chicken pieces occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to 1 day.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Remove chicken from the bag and arrange the chicken pieces in a large greased baking dish (or Dutch oven). Roast until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30-40 minutes. If your chicken browns too quickly, cover it with foil for the remaining cooking time. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter. 
At this point, if you're using a Dutch oven that can go on the stove, place it on a burner over medium-low heat. Whisk the chicken broth into the pan drippings, scraping up any browned bits with a wooden spoon and mixing them into the broth and pan drippings. Let it come to a boil and reduce a bit.  Drizzle the pan drippings over the chicken. Sprinkle the lemon zest and parsley over the chicken, and serve.
Alternatively, you can dump the drippings and any leftover marinade into a saucepan with the broth and make the pan sauce that way.  I've also eaten the chicken without making a pan sauce at all (skipping the broth part altogether).
Oven baked Risotto (serves 4-6)
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
4 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable broth
3/4 c. finely grated parmesan cheese
2 T butter, cut into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour rice and broth into a large baking dish (or Dutch oven) and stir to combine.  Cover and place in the oven for 45 minutes, or until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente.

With a wooden spoon or spatula, beat in the parmesan, butter, salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Homemade Turkey (or chicken) Noodle Soup

So far we've had a really fun Advent season.  The days are flying by and I can't believe Christmas is in 6 days!  We took our annual family trip to the desert last week and in our hotel was this giant Christmas tree.  There is a circular staircase around it and the girls had fun walking up and down and around the tree.  We also had a couple chilly trips to the park and a fun day at the Children's Discovery Museum in Rancho Mirage (highly recommended!).  

I told my husband the other night that I've felt cold for 3 days . . . this warm soup was just the remedy.   I've never made homemade chicken noodle before and I know it's sort of cheater because I didn't make it with a whole chicken or even homemade broth, but it was so yummy (so so much better than a can).  I thawed some frozen (cooked) turkey from Thanksgiving but cooked chicken (even rotisserie) would work fine as the meat in this soup. I bet wild rice would be a nice substitute for the noodles for our GF friends out there.  Since I sort of threw it together, the amounts are approximate - use your own judgment :)

Homemade Turkey (or Chicken) Noodle Soup (serves 4)

About 1 cup each:  chopped carrot, chopped celery, chopped onion (Trader Joe's sells their Mirepoix in the vegetable section which I used).
2 minced garlic cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried or you can skip it)
6 c. chicken broth
1-2 c. uncooked egg noodles (I used pappardelle pasta noodles from TJs and broke them into small pieces)
1 T. white wine (or 1/2 T white wine vinegar or lemon juice for a little acid)
1 bay leaf
2 c. shredded cooked chicken (or turkey) - about 8oz

Heat a large saucepan over medium high heat and add a litle olive oil.  Add carrot, onion, celery and garlic, and saute about 5 minutes or until onion is soft and lightly browned.  Add salt, pepper, thyme, bay leaf, and chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.  Add the noodles, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Add the turkey or chicken and cook for a few more minutes (until noodles are soft and chicken is hot).  Discard bay leaf and serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My 300th post

Today marks 300 posts on my blog!  Thanks for reading and commenting . . . I'm still really enjoying writing this blog and I hope it's inspired you to cook something new.

For the past few years, I've hosted the Christmas party for 4 of my girlfriends and their guys.  Like last year, we did cocktails and dessert (without any kids) and I had a great time.  Things are changing with our group (bff is moving, twins are being born, busy schedules) so we're not getting together weekly like we used to, but the party this past weekend was a fun reminder of how special it is to have a group of close girl friends who know each other well.   Thanks for a fun evening girls!

Whether or not you're hosting a party this Christmas season, here are a few new ideas to try out:

First up, a holiday cocktail:  Cranberry Ginger Rum Martinis

I made a mason jar of this and it was decided that next time, it should be a pitcher (there were 10 of us so it didn't go very far).

1)  In a jar (or pitcher), thinly slice some fresh ginger (I did about 4 long peels).  Add 1.25 cups of rum.  Use the handle of a wooden spoon to crush the ginger and release juices.

2)  Stir in 4 cups of cold cranberry juice.

3)  Refrigerate overnight so that the ginger has time to flavor the mixture.  Shake in a martini shaker with ice to make it really cold.  Serve in martini glasses with a sugar rim (dip rims of martini glasses in water and then in sugar).  Yields 8 drinks

Next, a new cookie:  Mexican Hot Chocolate Snickerdoodles (recipe from sugar, eggs and love)

This recipe yields about 2 dozen but I made a double batch.  At first, I wasn't as excited about them as I thought I would be but they really grew on me and I liked them even better the next day.  They are reminiscent of chocolate crinkles, a Christmas cookie staple in my family, but with cinnamon and a little kick from the cayenne.  Be careful when adding the cayenne . . . for some reason, the bottle I have is super hot (even for our tastes) and I know better than to add the full amount to anything.  1/8 tsp was perfect for me.  I burned the first batch so pull them out a little earlier than you think you should.

For the cookies:
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 T half and half (or almond milk for vegan cookies)
1.5 tsp. vanilla extract
1 2/3 c. flour
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (my jar is super hot so I only used 1/8 tsp)

For the topping:
1/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line two large baking sheets with silpat or parchment paper.  Mix the topping ingredients together in a shallow bowl.  Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, use a whisk to vigorously mix together the oil, sugar, syrup, half and half, and vanilla extract.  Use a mixer to mix as you sift in the remaining ingredients.  Once all ingredients are incorporated, mix until you have a pliable dough.

Roll dough into walnut-sized balls.  Roll them in the cinnamon sugar topping mixture.  Transfer to baking sheet and flatten slightly.  Place them on baking sheet at least two inches apart.  Bake 9-11 minutes until the top is a little crackly but not 100% dry.  Remove and let cool on pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Finally, a dessert that will accommodate a lot of dietary restrictions:  Pumpkin Custards

My mom made these for us a little while ago and I was hooked.  They are gluten free, vegan, and contain no refined sugar.  But, they're really tasty and satisfying as a dessert.

The white spots are from the coconut milk and it has a good pumpkin pie flavor - neither the maple syrup or coconut milk are very noticeable flavors in the final product so don't be put off by those ingredients.  I served it with whipped cream.

Pumpkin Custards (from Living Without magazine) - serves 6

1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut milk (not lite)
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
3 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. maple syrup
1 T arrowroot (powder - can buy it in bulk in the spice section of Sprouts)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil 6 ramekins.  In a large bowl, whisk together coconut milk, pumpkin, eggs, vanilla and maple syrup.  In a small bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients a little at a time, stirring constantly.  

Pour batter into prepared ramekins, about 3/4 cup per serving.  Place ramekins in a 9x13 pan and add enough warm water until it reaches half way up the outsides of the ramekins.  Carefully place baking dish in preheated oven and bake about 45 minutes, until custard is no longer jiggly and has lightly browned tops. Cool on wire racks. You can make them ahead and refrigerate until you want to serve them (probably for a couple days if you tightly cover them) or serve them warm. (230 cal/ramekin)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gingerbread Pumpkin Guinness Bundt

The Sunday after Thanksgiving was a memorable one for our family.  In the morning, my nephew was dedicated.  In the afternoon, my sister (who lives out of town) came over for the day.  We watched a movie and then she played with the girls while I baked - have I said how much I miss my sisters living close by??  Anyways, it was nice to have a little peace while she played with her nieces so I could make this bundt cake.  It was for our evening plans - my brother's 30th birthday celebration.  If it seemed weird to turn 30 myself, it's been really strange watching my two younger siblings (so far) hit that milestone.

You know I'm a fan of bundt cake and this recipe combined things I love:  pumpkin, gingerbread, and a good stout beer.  The original recipe was made with an oatmeal stout but I used Guinness.  It's a nice holiday dessert and I should have made much more icing . . . it looked a little skimpy and I didn't have time to make another batch.

Pumpkin Gingerbread Stout Bundt (10-12 servings)

1 cup dark stout
1/2 cup molasses
1 tsp. baking soda
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 T grated fresh ginger
2 c. all purpose flour
1 T ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray bundt pan with nonstick spray.  In a medium saucepan (you need room because the mixture will foam way up), combine the stout and molasses over medium heat.  Bring to a boil then remove from heat.  Stir in the baking soda.  It will foam up a lot - set it aside until the foam subsides and the mixture slightly cools.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sugars, oil, pumpkin and ginger.  In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and the rest of the ingredients.  Add a third of the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until just combined.  Add half of the stout mixture and whisk to combine.  Continue alternating flour and stout until the batter comes together.  Pour into prepared pan.

Bake about 45 minutes or until top feels springy and a tester comes out clean.  Cool for about 5 minutes and then turn the bundt out on a wire rack to continue cooling.  

To make the brown butter icing:
Melt 4 T butter in a small sauce pan over medium high heat until it browns (about 8-10 minutes).  Remove from heat.  Stir in 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.  Add milk, about a tablespooon at a time, until it's the consistency you want . . . I like it pourable but still really thick.  Pour over the bundt cake in wide ribbons.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

I know the photo isn't the best, but I forgot to photograph the pan before we all dug into it. I was originally going to make a cake for my bff's birthday party but with lots and lots of rolls and bread left over from Thanksgiving, I thought I'd use the leftovers to make a bread pudding.

For me, bread pudding is like risotto (bear with me here) . . . it always sounds great on a menu but usually after about 3 bites, I've had enough:  it's tasty, but rich and heavy.  This last time that I made it, I managed to eat a whole serving.  Sure, I felt it the next day but it was worth it!  

What's especially good about this recipe is the cinnamon rum sauce.  I bet it would be great on just about anything (ice cream, pound cake, fruit).  Also, don't skip the chocolate chips.  That little bit of bittersweet chocolate interspersed between the bread is just perfect.  

Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding serves 12-14
(Bon Appetit 1/03)

  • 1pound loaf of bread with crust, cut into 1-inch cubes (original recipe calls for Brioche or egg-bread but I used approximately 1 pound of french rolls)
  • 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

  • 2 1/2 cups half and half
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 large eggs
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons (packed) dark brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place bread in large bowl; pour 8 tablespoons melted butter over bread and toss to coat. Add chocolate chips and toss to combine. Transfer mixture to prepared dish.

Whisk half and half, 1 cup sugar, eggs, egg yolks, vanilla extract, and salt in large bowl to blend. Pour over bread cubes in dish. Let stand 30 minutes, occasionally pressing bread cubes into custard. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.) Drizzle remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter over pudding; sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake bread pudding until puffed, brown, and set in center, about 1 hour. Serve warm with Cinnamon-Rum Sauce.

Cinnamon-Rum Sauce (yield 1.5 cups)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup dark rum
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Melt unsalted butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add dark brown sugar, ground cinnamon, and salt and whisk until sugar is dissolved and mixture is bubbling and smooth, about 6 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in dark rum and vanilla extract. Serve warm.

(Cinnamon-Rum Sauce can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over low heat, whisking occasionally, before serving.)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanksgiving Memories

I know that it's a little late for a Thanksgiving recap and I'm super delinquent in posting this but it was such a special holiday that I can't move on to Christmas posting yet without sharing a little bit here on the blog.  This Thanksgiving was memorable for a few reasons:  it was my first time hosting Thanksgiving, my cousins came from Connecticut for the holiday, and filling our new home with family from near and far really felt like a true housewarming for me.  Instead of a bunch of stories or any recipes (most of what I made is on last year's Thanksgiving post), here are some photos!

Baby girl trying to "help" as we started cooking in our pjs on Thanksgiving morning

My cousin, a veteran at hosting Thanksgiving, giving me some help stuffing the cavity of the turkeys with herbs

Baby girl getting some cuddles from big cousin - the two blue-eyed brown-haired girls :)

Hard at work making place cards for the tables

The final product

Getting to use some of my Grandma Vi's dishes was really special for me on Thanksgiving.  Although we didn't celebrate too many Thanksgivings together because we lived far apart, I thought of her a lot this holiday.

What's Thanksgiving in Southern California without swimming in a heated pool?

My dad and his brother intently carving turkey with some supervision from my cousin's son.

My nephew's first Thanksgiving!

The turkey!

The spread (yes, there are 3 kinds of stuffing . . . )

Playing games after supper - one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Cheese Cave in Claremont

One of my best foodie discoveries in Claremont has been the Cheese Cave.  The staff helped me put together a dessert cheese course on two occasions and it turned out great!  I also stop in there for lunch sometimes.  If you come visit me, I'll take you there!

Here are some of the reasons I like it (in no particular order):
   a)  Samples.  lots of samples.
   b)  Knowledgable staff & great suggestions
   c)  Free temporary tattoos by the register
   d)  They keep a record of what you've bought so if you forget what it was called and want to buy it again, you can.
   e)  Delicious artisanal cheese and a fantastic selection 
   f)  Crazy good french baguettes
   g)  Samples.
   h)  Fresh sandwiches to go (different selection every day)

325 Yale Avenue / Closed Mondays

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bec's Turkey & Chile Chili

First, a few photos of the girls.  It's been really fun to watch their relationship develop.  Little is always in Big's shadows (literally like the first picture shows) but she manages to squeeze out a space for herself.  She can't wait for Big to come home from Pre-K and whenever she sees Big for the first time in the morning, she's just tall enough to give her a huge hug around the neck.  Big, to her credit, is doing pretty great with sharing, watching out for Little, interpreting her babbling, and constantly telling us that Little is "the cutest baby EVER.  And I mean it.  Have you ever seen a cuter baby?"

Trying so hard to help out

Finally manages to squeeze next to big and add a spoonful of something by herself.  By herself is a very important concept these days, much to my frustration at times.

Best buddies

Okay.  Now, onto the food:  after playing around with a few different recipes I've made in the past and wanting to turn up the heat a bit, this chili was the result.  We all liked it and you can make it more spicy by increasing the amount of pasilla chile, adding diced jalapenos, or adding red pepper flakes (which we did at the table).  You can make it less spicy by using regular diced tomatoes without the green chiles.

I've got a busy but fun week leading up to Thanksgiving so I'm not sure if I'll be posting.  If not, may your turkey be juicy, your half of the wishbone be longer, and your heart be thankful.  If you're reading this, I'm thankful for you!

Turkey & Chile Chili (4 servings)

3/4 lb ground turkey
1/2 c. diced onion
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 pasilla chile (or poblano), diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (15oz) can cannellini beans (or pinto)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 T chile powder
1 T tomato paste
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice

Put the turkey, onion, bell pepper, pasilla chile and garlic into a pot and saute until the turkey is no longer pink and the onion is soft.  Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, tomato paste and seasonings.  Let it come to a boil.  Reduce heat to and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Remove from the heat, stir in the lime juice and sprinkle with cilantro before serving.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

National Bundt Cake Day

I love this blog The Food Librarian and she makes a bundt cake every day for 30 days leading up to National Bundt Cake Day (11-15 . . . today!).  Crazy, right?  I'm very impressed by a commitment to do anything for 30 days straight.  She inspired me to make a new bundt recipe for some company we had this past weekend.  I served it with pumpkin ice cream (unfortunately not homemade) and I thought the cake was perfect!  Nice crumb and not too dense, moist, great flavor . . . I'll be making this one again.

I didn't change the recipe (from Fine Cooking) except to check the cake sooner than the baking time listed because my oven seems to cook faster than most and to omit the crystallized ginger because Trader Joe's was out of it (of course!!).

Buttermilk Cake with Vanilla Icing (serves 10-12)
from Fine Cooking

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1.5 cups granulated sugar
1/2 c. canola oil
2 large eggs
1 T white vinegar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. grated nutmeg
3/4 c. butttermilk
2 1/4 c. peeled and grated butternut squash

2 c. confectioners' sugar
3 T buttermilk (more as needed)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 c. finely chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 325 and prepare your Bundt pan (grease and flour or use the Baking Pam like I do).  In a large bowl with a hand mixer or a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until well combined, about 1 minute.  Add the oil and beat until combined, about 15 seconds.  Add the eggs one at a time in low speed.  Add the vinegar and vanilla and mix again until just combined.

Add one half of the flour, the baking soda, the ginger, the nutmeg, the salt and mix on low speed until just combined.  Add half the buttermilk and mix until just combined.  Repeat with the other half of the flour and buttermilk.  Stir the squash into the batter and pour batter into bundt pan.  Smooth with a spatula.  Bake until a tester comes out clean, about 1 hour (mine took 50  minutes).  Cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack then carefully remove the pan and cool the cake on a wire rack before transferring to a serving dish.

To make the icing:  In a medium bowl, whisk everything except the chopped crystallized ginger.  Add more buttermilk, a few drops at a time, as needed, until pourable but still quite thick.  Pour it in thick ribbons over the cake.  Sprinkle the ginger on top.  Let the icing set at room temperature (about 45 mins) before serving.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


You know those Yahoo headlines?  I'm not much of a sucker for them.  I know that the corresponding story is going to be a) something I already know or  b) different from what the headline promises or  c) a waste of time.  But, now and then the nutrition / health ones do draw me in.  I liked the one I read recently - it's about how people who are lean abide by certain "rules" to stay that way.

None of these things were news to me . . . I've dieted, exercised, and read enough health, diet & exercise magazines and books over the years to have found out about these "rules." But, it was a good reality check about whether or not I follow these on a regular basis.

A certain number on a scale isn't my goal and I believe that being healthy requires a lifestyle commitment to eating nutritious food and exercising regularly.  Even though I know that intellectually, I still struggle with my serious sweet tooth (next post:  cake) and have recently had to cut down on the number of workouts I'm able to do per week.  One of the areas I've noticed that I do poorly in (not in the article) is the amount of liquid calories that I consume.  So, I'll be honest and give you the rules from the article with my personal evaluation of how I'm doing:

#1 - Lean people don't diet - Truthfully, I probably would diet if I thought it would work or if I had more self discipline.  But, I don't.  Now and then, I do a fast from all sugar and white flour and it makes a huge difference but other than that, I eat what I think is healthy, fresh, and try to choose proteins over carbs (more on #5).

#2 -  Lean people don't go fat-free - I buy non-fat dairy products for myself and my husband (whole for the kiddos) and watch my saturated fat, but I don't buy "fat-free" things because of that label.  I'm more interested in finding foods with no added sugar than I am snacks with no fat (example:  KIND bars, trail mix, etc. - high in "good" fats but no added sugar).

#3 - Lean people sit down to eat - Does eating in the car count?  I usually stand to eat breakfast while I'm making my kids' breakfasts, feeding them, and on school days, making my daughter's lunch.  My biggest downfall is lunch and sometimes I drive through fast food if I'm out and in a hurry (usually BRC burritos at El Pollo Loco or coffee and a bistro box at Starbucks).  We always sit at the table for dinner.

#4 - Lean people know what they're going to eat next - I think about food all day.  Honestly.  I'll lay in bed at night thinking about what I'm going to eat for breakfast in the morning.  I'll be working out and thinking about what snack I'm going to have afterward.  I plan our dinners and know what I'm eating for dinner for a week.  But, I do snack on things that I don't intend to eat.  Like the open box of cookies or my daughter's candy or the pb&j crust I cut off her sandwich or random leftovers.

#5 - Lean people eat protein - Learning the effect of high protein diet in achieving a low-risk, healthy pregnancy drastically changed how I ate.  I learned approximately how many grams of protein certain foods have and take that into consideration at meals.  I've also noticed how my hunger, moods, and fatigue are affected when I don't eat enough protein.  I'm not doing as well on this as I have in the past and need to actively increase my protein intake.

#6 - Lean people move around - Does chasing your kids count?  Does moving around in your SUV count?  No, really, I do exercise.  Right now, it's gone from 5-6 days/week to 3-4 days/week but it's a commitment I've made to myself to stay active and I really work on being as consistent as I can.

#7 - Lean people watch less TV - I record probably 3 or 4 shows a week on our DVR that I like to watch.  Now that Project Runway is over and since 30 Rock hasn't been back this fall, it's more like 2 o4 3.  I don't have a lot of time to just sit on the couch and watch TV, and I don't like background noise from the TV, but if I had more time, I probably would watch more.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Overnight Baked Chicken

Ok, so you don't bake it overnight but you make it the night before, let it marinate until dinner time the next day, and toss it in the oven.  Perfect!  The curry isn't overpowering, the chicken ended up tender and moist, and it was the easiest thing ever.

And yes, that's rice-a-roni . . . don't judge me . . . you know you like it!

Overnight Baked Chicken (4 servings)
Original recipe from Baked Bree

1/2 c. honey
1/3 c. Dijon mustard
4 T soy sauce
1 T curry powder
4 chicken breasts

Mix together the honey, mustard, soy sauce and curry powder.  Place in a ziplock bag or a glass baking dish with the chicken breasts.  Marinate in the refrigerator over night.  The next night, dump the chicken and the marinade into a glass baking dish.  Cover with foil and bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.  Uncover and baste; bake another 15 minutes.  Slice and serve!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Fall Pies

Two pies in three weeks . . . I'm on a roll!  I usually don't make pies but I've felt like it lately and I thought I'd share these with you as we head into the holiday season.  What's your favorite pie or pie memory?

First up, sour cream apple pie:  Two apple pie lovers had birthdays in October - my uncle Joe and my husband.  I made my first apple pie in a long, long time for the two of them.  I have this thing where I don't like making pies with a top crust so this recipe with the streusel topping was perfect.  My streusel topping didn't turn out too pretty but I thought the sour cream apple filling was delicious.  

Sour Cream Apple Pie (8 servings)

1 cup sour cream
2/3 cup sugar
2 T flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
3 c. peeled, sliced tart apples (about 1.25lbs)
1 9 inch unbaked pie shell, chilled in the fridge for 30 minutes (or frozen)

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup flour
1/4 cup butter, room temperature 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix together the topping ingredients until they resemble coarse crumbs.  Chill until needed in the recipe.

Beat together the sour cream, sugar, flour, salt, vanilla and egg (by hand or with a mixer).  Add apples, mixing carefully to coat well.

Put filling into pie shell and bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with the crumb topping.  Bake for 20 more minutes.

Let cool and hour before serving.

Next, a free form (galette?) persimmon apple pear pie:  I was on my way back from a Sunday run and had to stop at farmer's market when I saw beautiful Fuyu persimmons.  I looked at a bunch of recipes and couldn't decide what to make, so I made up my own with some fall fruit, spices, and ended up with a rustic pie / tart of sorts.  No photo, sadly, but it turned out pretty good.  I think it would be even better with the homemade cinnamon ice cream my mom made yesterday.  And, some toasted nuts or dried fruit (currants or raisins or cranberries?) would be a nice addition to the filling.  My husband suggested a caramel drizzle on top.

Persimmon Pear Apple Pie (6 servings)

1 pie crust, unbaked
3 fuyu persimmons, cut into 1/2 in chunks
1 pear, cut into 1/2 in chunks
1/2 Granny Smith apple, diced
1 tsp flour
1 T orange zest
scant 1/4 c. sugar
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cloves

Optional:  Beaten egg and sugar 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Roll out your pie crust and place on parchment paper or silpat on a baking sheet.  Combine the rest of the ingredients in a bowl.  Heap in the center of the pie crust.  Spread it out a little bit, leaving an edge of pie crust about two inches all around.  Fold the pie crust up over the filling, pleating as necessary, leaving the filling exposed in the middle (does this make sense?  I wish I had taken a photo . . . check out this - looks similar to the shape etc. of my pie )  

If you want to, brush the crust with your egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for about a hour - until crust is nicely browned and fruit is soft and bubbly.  Let the pie sit for at least 15-20 minutes before serving.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Butter Lettuce Salad with Haricots Verts and Feta

I don't often follow recipes or post recipes for salad . . . I throw together whatever vegetables, lettuce, and dressing I have on hand.  But, I made this one from a recent issue of Food & Wine and it was fantastic.  I used the extra dressing on a bunch of different types of salad for the next week or so.  Great salad course option and I'll be using this salad dressing often.

Goddess Salad with Haricots Verts and Feta (serves 6)
from Food & Wine

1/2 pound haricots verts
1 T minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
3 T cider vinegar
3 T fresh lemon juice
3/4 c. canola oil
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (I used about 3/4 tsp dried)
freshly ground pepper
2 heads of Bibb or butter lettuce, torn into pieces
1/2 lb feta cheese, crumbled
1 large seedless cucumber, thinly sliced
3 large hard cooked eggs, quartered.

In a medium saucepan of salted boiling water, cook the haricots verts until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain and cool under running water and pat dry.  Set aside.

In a blender or mini processor, combined the shallot, garlic, mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice until smooth.  Add the canola oil and thyme.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In a large bowl, combine the torn lettuce, half of the feta, the cucumber and haricots verts.  Add about half to 3/4 of the dressing.  Plate the salads, garnish with the hard cooked eggs, more of the feta, drizzle with a little more dressing, and grind some fresh pepper over the top.  Serve.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween

She is SO excited to be Rapunzel and just loves "the hair."  

Little sister hated putting on the dinosaur costume.  I have stuff to make her a little black cat as a back up.  We'll see what happens when it comes time for the Halloween party we're going to this morning.  

Scarecrow big sister . . . buying our pumpkins at Trader Joe's.  I'm a little bummed we didn't make it to a pumpkin patch this year, but I'm sure there will be plenty of years to do that.  

Both girls were really into carving pumpkins . . . for about 3 minutes.  Big sister picked the pumpkins, drew the faces, pulled one handful of goop out of the inside, and waited for it to get dark so we could light the candles inside.  It's still weird to me how little kids' memories work.  She remembers what she was for Halloween last year and trick-or-treating, but she doesn't ever remember carving a pumpkin (and we've done it every year).  Here's what my kids looked like a year ago

I'm surprised that I haven't posted pumpkin pancakes ever - you know how we love pancakes around here.  I've made a few versions of these (and there are a few mixes out there like the TJs one that are quite good) but this recipe is probably my best.  I started with half cup of milk and added about a quarter cup more.  Play with the liquid until it pours the way you like it.  The recipe is easily doubled.  This batch fed 2 of us on 2 mornings (putting the batter in the refrigerator overnight actually made it taste even better the next morning).

Pumpkin Pancakes (makes about 12 medium sized pancakes)
Source:  I think from All Recipes?  Not sure

  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 egg
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon and 1-1/2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine milk, pumpkin, egg, oil, and vinegar.  In another bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients.  Make a well and add the wet ingredients.  Stir until just combined.  Let set about 5 minutes.  If the batter is too thick, add a little more milk.  Cook on a buttered skillet until bubbles appear.  Flip.  Eat warm with maple syrup.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pumpkin Banana Bread

After that birthday interlude, we return to our regularly scheduled programming of pumpkin recipes:

I know pumpkin banana bread sounds weird . . . I was conflicted about making banana bread with my 2 ripe bananas or making pumpkin bread because, well, it sounded good.  I googled "pumpkin banana bread" and got tons of hits.  I guess it's a thing and I didn't know it really existed.  It turned out really good.  I think it needs something mixed in (a half cup of nuts or cranberries or chocolate chips?) but I'm sure I'll be making it again soon.  Try it.  It's weird but you'll like it.

Pumpkin Banana Bread (1 large loaf or 3 small loaves)
Original recipe here

2 ripe bananas
1 c. pumpkin puree
1/4 c. canola oil
2 eggs
2/3 c. sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Put the bananas, pumpkin, oil, eggs, and sugar in a bowl and beat with a mixer until well combined.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the rest of the ingredients.  Stir into the pumpkin banana mixture until just combined.  Pour into greased loaf pans.  Bake 25-30 minutes for small loaf pans or about a hour for a large loaf pan.

Monday, October 24, 2011

My niece's birthday cake

How precious is my niece?!?  Being an aunt is the best and I feel blessed that my niece and nephew live nearby and I can see them often.  On Thursday nights, we have dinner at my parent's with my brother, sister-in-law, niece & nephew, and my grandmother.  I look forward to it all week and it's extra fun when we have a birthday to celebrate.  My niece turned 3 this past week and my sister in law brought this dessert.  I wanted to share the recipe because the tart was so delicious, and gluten free (it was much better than the grocery store cake big sister begged for . . . shhhh . . . don't tell).

The dessert is rich so you'll be able to get more servings out of this than something lighter of this size.  We had it with vanilla ice cream but whipped cream would be good too.  The jam part at the end is optional.  I left in the ingredient notes from my sister-in-law's friend Abby (thanks for the recipe!) in case you have dairy sensitivities.

Chocolate Raspbery Tart with Pecan Crust (8-12 servings)

2 cups pecans, toasted
6 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, melted (or ghee)
3/4 heavy cream - if using goats milk use 1/2 cup since it's thinner
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped 
1 pint raspberries (or strawberries, blueberries or combo)
1/4 cup seedless jam (optional)
whipped cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Process pecans, brown sugar, and cinnamon until finely ground then add melted butter until just moist
2. Press crust into 9 -inch removable bottom tart pan (or spring form or a regular pan if you don't have one)
3. Bake until golden brown - about 25 mins and cool on rack
4. Bring cream to a simmer, remove from heat and add chocolate - stir until smooth
5. Pour chocolate over cooled crust and refrigerate until chocolate has hardened
6. Arrange berries on chocolate.
7. If using jam, heat if over low heat in saucepan to make it easy to spread
8. Using pastry brush, brush jam over berries
9. Serve with whipped cream - optional