Monday, April 25, 2011

Beet & Chickpea Salad

When I'm planning menus for the week, I sometimes ask my husband and daughter for ideas.  My husband almost always says "green soup" and big sister says "spaghetti."  So, green soup it was last week.  I'm getting a little sick of having it so often but it's super nutritious and easy to make.  I was looking for a side dish to go with the green soup and since that soup has leafy greens and rice, I didn't really want a starch or a salad.  I remembered a black bean and beet salad from one of Mark Bittman's cookbooks and since I had chickpeas on hand, I came up with this variation.  It was delicious!  

There are a few foods I used to not like that I've acquired a taste for.  Mushrooms are one of them and beets are another.  I've realized it's because I associated mushrooms with cream of mushroom soup and beets with pickled beets from a can.  Now that I've discovered the real flavors, I really like both mushrooms and beets.  The other day I found already steamed, peeled beets at the grocery store and bought a package.  Trader Joes used to carry them, but like everything else good there, I can't find them anymore.  

This salad would be good over shredded red cabbage or spinach.  It could make a heartier vegetarian dish if you added some wild rice or barley. 

And, try the green soup - you'll like it!

Beet & Chickpea Salad (4 side dish servings)

1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 T diced onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T olive oil
1/3 c. red wine
1 15oz can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
8 oz beets, steamed or roasted and peeled (5-6 small)
1 T orange juice (fresh squeezed if possible)
1/4 c. goat cheese or feta cheese
salt and pepper

In a medium skillet, saute the bell pepper and onion in olive oil until soft.  Add the garlic and saute one minute more.  Transfer to a serving bowl.  In the same skillet (now empty), add the red wine and bring to a low boil.  Let it reduce by half (around 4 minutes) - it will be syrupy.  Add to the bowl with the vegetables.  Stir in the beans and orange juice.  Chop the beets in small chunks and add to the bowl.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  You can serve it immediately or refrigerate it up to 24 hours.  Top with the goat cheese or feta before serving.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal

I'm working on eliminating the sugar from our mornings.  I love pastries and the two amazing bakeries in Claremont are super tempting.  Add to this my daughter's love of cereal (I don't even buy very sugary cereal but she loves anything remotely sweet - even the Barbara's Puffins), pancakes and waffles and you get the picture.  Right now, my daughter isn't wanting any eggs so we're back to oatmeal as a healthful alternative to the sugary carbs.

If your family likes sweet stuff too, try this oatmeal recipe.  There's no added sugar but it tastes delicious.  Boiling the raisins, apple, juice and cinnamon with the oats is key to good flavor.  I didn't grow up eating oatmeal so I'm not used to the instant packets and they don't appeal to me.  And, let's face it:  old fashioned oats really don't take that long.  If you want less of the natural sugar (or don't care if it's as sweet), use all water and no apple juice.  You can also top with nuts to increase the protein.

What less sugary breakfast foods will your kids eat??

Cinnamon Apple Oatmeal (3 servings)

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 small apple, diced
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. raisins
3/4 c. apple juice (optional)
1 T ground flax seed (optional)

In a small sauce pan, combine the apple, cinnamon, and raisins with 3/4 c. water and the apple juice and bring to a boil.  Stir in the oats.  Reduce heat to medium and cook until most of the water is absorbed and the oats are soft.  Stir in the flax seed (if you want to).  Serve immediately.
*GF if you have gluten-free oats

Friday, April 15, 2011

Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole

We're having some technical difficulties at our house these days - laptop is on the fritz (where did that expression come from??) and we haven't replaced our stolen desk top computer.  So, no photos on the blog today.  Instead, let me tell you about this casserole.  It's adapted from a recipe in the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook that I've had since college and it was really tasty.  Hearty with a decent amount of vegetables and lean protein.  Since this uses a grain and no flour, if you use gluten free condensed soup, it's a good gf casserole option.

I love wild rice and recently found those pouches of already cooked wild rice at Trader Joe's which eliminates one step from the preparation.  Have you ever used bacon that you buy already cooked?  It's a little limp and not as good for eating on it's own (you know, with eggs for breakfast), but it's good in recipes like this and takes out another step of the prep.  I made a double batch (one pan for us, one for a friend) in the morning and refrigerated it until dinner time and it was great.  I almost forgot the mozzarella cheese but it helped to make it all stick together in the end so I think it's definitely better with it.

Blog note:  My mom has been doing me the favor of pointing out how my serving sizes are off by quite a bit on some recipes.  I'm going back and fixing them.  If you ever make something here and notice that part of the recipe isn't quite right, please let me know!  I'd love to hear that you're making something and would like to keep improving upon the recipes.

Chicken & Wild Rice Casserole (serves 6)

1/2 c. chopped carrot
1/2 c. chopped red bell pepper
1/4 c. sliced green onions (2-3 onions)
1 T butter
1 10 3/4 ounce can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 9 oz jar or can of artichoke hearts, cut up
1 1/2 c. chopped, cooked chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken)
1 c. cooked wild rice
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. milk
2 T sherry or dry white wine (or substitute extra milk)
2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 T grated parmesan cheese

Saute the carrot, bell pepper and onions in the butter until crisp-tender.  In a large bowl, combine those vegetables with the rest of the ingredients except the parmesan cheese.  Stir well to combine.  Transfer to a 2 quart baking dish.  Sprinkle with the cheese.  At this point, you can cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours or you can bake it.  If you're baking it right away, bake 20 minutes covered with foil, 20 minutes uncovered and let it stand for 10 minutes before serving.  If you're baking it from the refrigerator, add an extra 10 minutes to the baking time while it's covered.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Coconut muffins

I was wanting some sweet chewy baked good the other day and decided to make these muffins.  You know I love coconut and I'd never made muffins with coconut milk before.  The recipe is vegan so if you have any egg or dairy allergies, this is a good option.

I think next time I might try the regular (not "light") coconut milk, substitute some of the white flour for whole wheat, and decrease the sugar by 1/4 cup.  I used unsweetened coconut flakes and they weren't overwhelmingly sweet but I think the sugar cut back might not make a big difference.  I haven't tried it, but I bet a gf flour would substitute pretty well here.

The one problem was I tried to eat one while it was warm and it stuck to the muffin liner a lot - wait until they're completely cool or grease a muffin tin without a paper liner.

Coconut Muffins (1 dozen)

2 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 14oz can of coconut milk
1/3 c. unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 c. shredded coconut (plus more for sprinkling on top)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, bakign powder, baking soda, and salt.  In a separate bowl, combine coconut milk, applesauce and vanilla.  Add wet to dry, stirring just to combine, then fold in the shredded coconut.  Spoon into mufin cups and sprinkle additional shredded coconut on top.  Bake for about 18 minutes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Things we love

For as rough as February and March were, April is shaping up to be a wonderful month.  On the first day of April, we had no tricks but a special visit from some Indiana friends and our inaugural swim in the pool (well, first swim since moving in).  In addition to that, here are some things we've been enjoying lately . . . 

George the turtle woke up from hibernating all winter

And so did lots of lizards . . . we look for them on walks around our neighborhood and big sister has an insanely good eye for spotting these quick little guys.

We love pancakes (still), especially when they have funny faces.

Checking out shadows in the morning sun

Swinging together at the park around the corner from our house

Swinging, sunshine, and no shoes - does it get any better?  I wish I could bottle her pure pleasure in the ordinary things and save it (for when she hits puberty??)

Friday, April 1, 2011

More Food Coloring

Make sure your volume is up and listen to this song - it's the closing song from every episode of big sister's new favorite TV show.  And, what's not to like?  When these kids have a problem, they "look in a book" for the answer and their super powers are spelling power, alphabet power, word power, and the power to read.

The Red Riding Hood character (she's "Wonder Red" when she transforms into a super hero) made red velvet cake with her grandma in a recent episode and after that, big sister was filled questions about red velvet cake.  Is it real?  Is it really red?  What does it taste like?  And, of course, Can WE make it?

So, you guessed it, more food coloring and baking.  I know recipes abound and everyone has their favorite but I made the Hershey's recipe with cream cheese frosting for potluck last Sunday.  I should have taken it out of the oven about 5 minutes earlier but it was pretty good.  When I tasted the batter before washing the bowl, it made my mouth tingle - was it too much food coloring or the vinegar?

I was reading a little bit about the history of the cake and it cracked me up when I read that in the '70s, the popularity of red velvet cake "faded when red food dye was linked to cancer."  I should hope so!  Has anybody used beetroot juice to color a red velvet cake?  Honestly, I'm not a big enough fan to make this (or ingest this much food coloring) on a regular basis but, like the rainbow cupcakes, we had a fun experience trying it out.  I think big sister has had enough food coloring to last her until 2012!

The batter:

What big sister does while I do the dishes and we wait for the cake to bake.  On this particular day, we took turns saying nursery rhymes.

Hershey's Red Velvet Cake  Click for recipe

Recipe notes:
*Instead of 2 T, I only used about 2 tsp. red food coloring (what was left in the little vial I bought for the cupcakes)
*I made my own cream cheese frosting
*Check your cake between 25 and 30 minutes
*Other than that, I followed the recipe