Saturday, January 29, 2011

Antidote for a sleepless night

Ahh, sleep.  Most of you already know the long story of how big sister didn't sleep through the night for 8 months . . . if you met me during that time, I talked about it a lot.  God has blessed me with a new baby who sleeps much better and I don't take it for granted one bit.  But, both girls have been sick and for the last 6 nights, I've been up about every 2 hours all night long.  This morning, I was really feeling those sleepless nights.

I'd like to say that I'm not obsessing about their sleep like I used to, but if I'm honest with you, I am.  I'm laying awake freaking out that the baby is never going to sleep again and then debating whether to stop swaddling the baby, how to transition her to a crib, and trying to decide what age I'll be comfortable sleep training.  Then, I started wondering if they'll both stop sleeping when we move and when they start sharing a room . . . aaahhhhh.  You have to keep in mind, that in the past week, the baby slept a 9 hour night and a 10 hour night.  All this fretting isn't necessarily warranted, but that's what consecutive nights with no REM sleep will do to you.

So, if you see me, instead of telling me, "boy, you look tired" you can tell me "hey, Bec - the baby isn't like big sister and she'll go back to sleeping through the night as soon as she's not sick any more."  Lie if you have to - I need to believe!  I woke up this morning and there they were - two bright eyed, happy girls waiting for a smiling mom to get her act together and make some breakfast.  
"Come on mom, get out of bed.  I'm huuuungry."
I brewed a big pot of coffee (our Costa Rican favorite - Cafe Britt) and made blueberry pancakes from the Julienne cookbook.  I felt much, much better after breakfast and even got a 4 mile run in this morning!  My husband and big sister wanted theirs without the blueberries but I loved the berries.  At Julienne, they serve them with lemon curd.

So, if you have a rough night, give these a try; you'll feel better!

Whisking is her favorite part

Julienne's Blueberry Pancakes (half the original recipe - serves 3ish)

1 c. all purpose flour
1 T brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. buttermilk
1 large egg
1 T vegetable oil
1 c. blueberries

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.  Whisk the wet ingredients in a small bowl and pour into the dry ingredient bowl, stirring to combine.  Don't stir too much - there will be a few lumps remaining.  Heat a pan over medium heat until hot.  Lightly coat the pan with butter.  Pour about 1/4 c. batter to make round pancakes and top each one with a few blueberries.  When bubbles form on the surface of the pancakes (about 2 minutes), flip and cook about 2 more minutes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cucumber Salad with Mint & Feta

Here's the side salad I made the other night to go with the chicken thighs.  It was light, refreshing, and would go with a lot of different menus.  If you don't have fresh mint, a different fresh herb (dill or tarragon) would work fine.  And, I bet that goat cheese instead of the feta would be good as well. 

Cucumber Salad with Mint & Feta (2 servings)

1 medium cucumber
1/2 c. crumbled feta
1/4 c. fresh mint, chopped
1/4 c. olive oil
2 T fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Peel half of the skin off the cucumbers in long strips and slice very thinly.  In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, half of the mint, salt & pepper.  Toss the cucumbers with the dressing and arrange on  a platter.  Top with the feta and the rest of the mint.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Indian-spiced Chicken in the Crock pot

You know how I love my crockpot!  I have this indian curry recipe with chicken and sweet potatoes in the crock pot that I've had mixed results with and this is the new version - adapted from a Family Circle recipe that I read in some random waiting room.  This is much better and I think for a few reasons - the chicken is in the crock pot a shorter amount of time, the thighs aren't as dry as chicken breasts (still very lean, boneless, skinless but the dark meat makes a difference), and thickening the sauce at the end worked really well.  If you don't like curry or spicy stuff, still give this a try - it's mild and although garam masala is a main ingredient in most curries, it's not overwhelming.  If you like spicier, add a little cayenne or red chili flakes.

I served it with a coconut brown rice (substitute half the water for unsweetened coconut milk) and a cucumber salad (recipe coming soon - it was a winner).  You could used chunks of sweet potato in place of the carrots if you want or leave the carrots out altogether.

Indian Spiced Chicken Thighs (serves 4)
adapted from Family Circle

1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup baby carrots
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 3/4 tsp. garam masala (divided)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
3/4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 c. plain yogurt
1 T cornstarch

Put the carrots, onion, and garlic on the bottom of the slow cooker.  Put the chicken thighs on top and pour the broth over it all.  Sprinkle it with 1/4 tsp. of the salt, the pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the garam masala.  Cover and cook for 3 hours on high or 5 hours on low.

After that time, remove the chicken and cover.  In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 3/4 tsp. garam masala, 1/4 tsp. salt, yogurt, and cornstarch.  Whisk it into the slow cooker bowl and cover; cook an additional 15 minutes or until sauce has thickened.  Serve sauce and vegetables over the chicken.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Wild rice & mushroom soup

Ok, let's start by saying that my daughter doesn't eat soup.  Now and then she wants a taste of the "breath" (broth) but that's about it.  So when I make soup for us, I usually find some leftovers or something for the little girl to eat.  Until we started having this 80 degree weather in January, I was making soup about once a week and this one was terrific.

The recipe is from the Cooking Light "Soup" book that Steph bought me for my birthday last year.  I've enjoyed cooking through many of these recipes.  Wild rice is a good grain to use in soup because it doesn't get too soft when you cook it (or reheat it) and the nutty flavor adds a lot to a simple vegetable soup like this.  Make sure you're using wild rice and not a rice blend.  I also liked using fresh rosemary from my yard and I thought the mushrooms weren't too strong (or slimy for those of you who don't like mushrooms).  You could probably easily substitute some wild mushrooms if you have some.

This could easily be made vegetarian by using vegetable broth or gluten free by using a cornstarch (dissolve 2 T in the milk and leave out the flour).  The nutrition info in the book says it's 185 calories per 1 cup serving and 3 g fat (if you use fat-free broth and 2% milk).

Wild Rice & Mushroom Soup (makes 8 cups)
from Cooking Light "Soup"

2 tsp butter
1/2 c. chopped carrot
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 8oz package of sliced mushrooms (I used cremini from TJs)
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/4 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. black pepper
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 (14 oz) cans fat-free, less sodium chicken broth
1 c. uncooked wild rice
1/3 c. flour
2 3/4 c. milk
2 T dry sherry (or white wine)
3/4 tsp. salt

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add carrot, onion, celery, mushrooms, rosemary, pepper & garlic and saute for about 8 minutes or until tender.  Add the broth, scraping the pan to loosed any browned bits.  Stir in rice and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until rice is tender.

Combine flour (or cornstarch) and milk in a small bowl with a whisk.  Add to soup mixture.  Cook over medium heat about 10 minutes or until thick, stirring frequently.  Stir in sherry and salt.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Sherry Lamb Casserole

Remember the cooking class I took that inspired me to start my blog?  I pulled out the recipes from that class and made one of them last weekend for friends.  It did not disappoint me!  I've made this 2 or 3 times since I took that class and it really is so good.  The beginning steps feel like it's going to take awhile, but then it slow cooks until the end and makes your house smell yummy.

Ingredient notes:  I got a great deal on lamb shoulder at Whole Foods and the hardest ingredient to find was frozen pearl onions (go figure - I thought that was weird).  I don't cook with fresh dill much but it's perfect in this recipe.  I just started using tomato paste from a tube again  . . . try it, you'll like it.

Technique notes:  At the class, Cherie said that you could put it in ramekins after an hour with a puff pastry top (like a pot pie) and bake for the final half hour.  Or, you can put it in the crock pot instead of the oven and cook on low for 7-8 hours.  I served it over homemade mashed potatoes and it was yummy!

Sherry Lamb Casserole (4 servings)
recipe from Chez Cherie

2 lb lamb stew meat, cubed (I used shoulder & my notes say "not leg")
4 T butter, divided
3 T brandy (optional)
10 oz. petite white onions (frozen)
1/4 lb baby carrots
1/4 lb mushrooms
1/4 lb green beans (trimmed, cut into 3 in. pieces)
2 T flour
2 T tomato paste
1 1/2 c. beef stock
3/4 c. sherry
salt & pepper
2 T fresh dill, chopped (plus more for garnish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a stockpot or dutch oven, heat 2 T of the butter and saute the lamb in batches.

As the lamb is browned, remove to a platter and repeat until all lamb is browned and removed.

Melt the remaining 2 T of butter and saute the vegetables until fragrant, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and flour, and cook until it's incorporated into a paste.

Add broth and sherry.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thick and bubbly, about 5-7 minutes.  Return the meat to the pot and add the brandy.  Simmer an additional 5 minutes.

Season lightly with salt and pepper and sprinkle with dill.

Cover and place in the oven for about 1 1/2 hours, until meat is tender.  (Or, put it in the crockpot on low for 8 hours).  Garnish with fresh dill.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Crepes for dinner

A few years ago, my sister gave me a crepe pan and a crepe cookbook for my birthday.  I haven't made them nearly often enough as I should and yesterday I felt like making something "fun" for dinner. Now, my sister-in-law is the crepe person in the family and I kept thinking of her crepe parties when I was looking through recipes.  These weren't as good as hers but they were still a big hit - my husband asked with a sad voice, "they're all gone?" after he cleaned his plate.

The original recipe was for ham instead of the turkey and I think any thinly sliced deli meat would work in the recipe.  I liked this bechamel - a little different from other white sauces I've made recently but I had good results with it.  You can make all the crepes ahead of time but I made the filling first and as each crepe came off the pan, I filled it, rolled it and put it in the baking dish.  It was a little crazy but worked!  I had some extra sauce so I spooned it over the top when I pulled the crepes out of the oven.

And, for those of you who are interested, big sister ate a plain crepe by itself, turkey by itself, a few slices of cheese, and green beans.  A deconstructed version of our dinner!

Crepes with Turkey, Gruyere & Mushrooms (serves 3-4)
filling adapted from "Blinis & Crepes" by Camille Le Foll

For the crepes:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Whisk together the flour and the eggs.  Gradually add the milk and water, stirring to combine.  Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.  Heat a lighly oiled pan over medium high heat.  Pour about 1/4 cup batter into the pan, swirling the pan in a circular motion to evenly coat it with the batter.  Cook the crepe about 1 minute, until the bottom is light brown.  Turn and cook the other side about 30-45 seconds.  Stack on waxed paper.

For the filling:
8 oz mushrooms, cleaned and finely sliced
3 oz unsalted butter
pinch of nutmeg
scant 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 c. milk
2 T sour cream
1 c. grated Gruyere cheese
10 slices cooked turkey
salt & pepper

Melt 2 T butter in a pan over medium heat, add the mushrooms and toss until cooked.  Season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg.  Transfer to a plate or bowl, wipe out the pan, and melt 2 more tablespoons of butter.  Add the flour and mix thoroughly.  Cook on low heat 1-2 minutes and pour all the milk into the mixture at once.  

Whisk vigorously and continuously until the sauce thickens and becomes smooth and velvety.  Cook for a couple of minutes.  Add the mushrooms and cook for another minute.  Remove from heat and add sour cream and grated cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Assemble the crepes  & bake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place a slice of turkey on each crepe and cover with a layer of mushroom sauce.  Roll it up and place in a greased ovenproof dish (I used an 8x8).  Dot with the remaining butter and cook in oven 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Monday, January 3, 2011

More Persimmons

Until recently, I had never tasted a Hachiya persimmon.  These have a more pointy bottom (instead of a flat bottom like the Fuyu) and are eaten very soft instead of firm (Fuyus have a consistency like a pear).  One description I read when trying to find out how I'd know when the Hachiya are ripe is that they should feel like water balloons.

One ripened up and I tasted it - delicious.  These are the ones that can make you have cotton mouth when they're unripe.  I've never tried it but Theresa says I should, just for the experience.   I used my ripe Hachiya in half of a muffin recipe from a recent issue of Cooking Light.  The muffins have both kinds of persimmons in them and were a big hit at our house.  A bonus about the recipe is that it used whole wheat flour, not much sugar, and no butter but they were moist, plenty sweet, and had a nice crumb.  I really liked the dried cranberries as an accent but the muffins would still be great without them.

The original recipe called for plain yogurt, 1/3 c. honey, 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger, and 1 tsp. vanilla.  I only had vanilla yogurt so I left out the vanilla and decreased the honey and I substituted ground ginger for the fresh.

I have four more Hachiya ripening on the counter so I'm hoping to make some cookies from a recipe my friend Katie shared with me.

Persimmon & Pecan Muffins (makes 18)
adapted from Cooking Light 11/10

  • 1/2  cup  chopped toasted pecans
  • 5.6  ounces  all-purpose flour (about 1 1/4 cups)
  • 4.75  ounces  whole-wheat flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2  cup  packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons baking soda
  • 1  teaspoon salt
  • 1  teaspoon  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2  teaspoon  ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8  teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1  cup Greek vanilla yogurt 
  • 1/3  cup  ripe mashed Hachiya persimmon
  • 2 T   honey
  • 1/4  cup  canola oil
  • 2  large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2  cup  diced peeled Fuyu persimmon
  • 1/2  cup  dried cranberries
  • Preheat oven to 350°.   Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours and next 6 ingredients (through cloves) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Combine yogurt and next 4 ingredients (through eggs) in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add egg mixture to flour mixture, and stir just until combined. Fold in Fuyu persimmon, cranberries, and toasted pecans. 
  • Spoon batter into 18 muffin cups coated with cooking spray or lined with paper liners. Bake muffins for 18 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pans for 5 minutes on a wire rack, and remove from pans.