Wednesday, September 28, 2011

An Accidental GF Meal

Please enjoy this guest post from my sister Paula . . . she is one of the most faithful readers of this blog and I'm excited to try these recipes!  There's no photo of her recipe so instead, I offer you this picture of the cook cycling in Oregon in JULY.

"I have recently made a commitment to myself to make interesting food and, in general, cook at home more. I sort of got out of the habit of buying groceries this summer but fall is here and I am ready to begin. Today, I thought I would use polenta that has been in my cupboard for months and due to expire in October.  So, as always, I accessed my go to resource....this blog.  But alas! my sister has no recipes that use polenta as a main ingredient. I went to my back the drawing board (or the internet) where I found the following recipe.

I am happy to present a wonderful meal of that not only uses polenta but, as it turns out, is GF too. Something for the whole family! (well, my family these days).  In addition to the main dish, I made a sweet potato salad that I recently ripped out of "Cooking Light" as motivation to enact my new school year resolution. I think it will be a good potluck item in the future...grad students have a lot of potlucks...another good reason to stay in school for 22+ years

I hope you enjoy!"

Parmesan Crusted Polenta with Sausage-Mushroom Ragout (Gourmet 12/07)

2 pounds precooked polenta (in a tube), cut into 4 (1/2-inch-thick) rounds
1/3 cup grated parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casing removed
1/2 pound mixed sliced fresh wild mushrooms (I used plain old cremini mushrooms)
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 cups bottled marinara sauce (I used a can of diced tomatoes and added some basil, oregano, and garlic salt
Broil polenta rounds on a lightly oiled large heavy baking sheet 3 to 4 inches from heat until lightly browned in spots, about 7 minutes. Turn rounds over and sprinkle with cheese, then broil until polenta is golden in spots and cheese is melted, about 7 minutes more.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over high heat until it shimmers, then cook sausage, breaking up lumps, until just cooked through, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Heat remaining tablespoon oil in skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then cook mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add wine and boil, scraping up any brown bits, until reduced by about half, about 2 minutes. Stir in sausage and tomato sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Season with salt.  Serve ragout spooned over polenta.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Cranberry-Chipotle Dressing

2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces  (I don't bother with the peeling)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries (I used dried cranberries)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1 (7-ounce) can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce 
  • 1/2 cup pepitas (pumpkinseeds)
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • Preheat oven to 450°. Place sweet potatoes on a large jelly roll pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Bake at 450° for 30 minutes or until tender, turning after 15 minutes. 
  • Place remaining 1 tablespoon oil, cranberries, water, and honey in a saucepan. Remove 1 or 2 chiles from can; finely chop to equal 1 tablespoon. Add chopped chipotle and 1 teaspoon adobo sauce to pan (reserve remaining chiles and sauce for another use). Place pan over medium-low heat; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and cook 10 minutes or until cranberries pop, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Mash with a potato masher or fork until chunky. 
  • Place pepitas in a medium skillet; cook over medium heat 4 minutes or until lightly browned, shaking pan frequently. Combine potatoes, pepitas, onions, and cilantro in a bowl. Add cranberry mixture to bowl; toss gently to coat.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sloppy Joes from Scratch

Ok - it's taking a great deal of restraint not to put up a video of Adam Sandler singing the Lunch Lady Song since I"m writing about sloppy joes.  But, I'm not in high school and you're probably not either so we can move on to an adult discussion of this sandwich.

I really like Sloppy Joes and I usually make them with that seasoning packet and ground turkey.  I know that all sorts of weird stuff (or, if not weird stuff, lots of sugar) can be in those packets and I've had an interest in making mine from scratch.  What appealed to me about this recipe is that it wasn't very time consuming.  I used my mini chopper and chopped the mushrooms pretty fine so big sister couldn't pick them out.  It didn't take much longer than my usual way of making Sloppy Joes and we liked the flavor.  

Recipe notes:  The next time, I might add a little less molasses and a little more hot sauce.  If you use salted tomato paste, taste the mixture before you add the rest of the salt in the recipe.  Also, Cooking Light said "cremini offer deeper, richer flavor but you can also use regular button mushrooms."

And, my from 7th post ever, another ground meat sandwich

Beef & Mushroom Sloppy Joes (4 servings)
from Cooking Light June 2011

12 oz ground sirloin (or good quality ground beef)
2 (8oz) packages sliced cremini mushrooms
1 c. chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. tomato paste (no-salt or low sodium if possible)
1 T minced fresh oregano (or 2 tsp. dried oregano)
2 T red wine vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce
1 T molasses
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp. hot sauce
4 Kaiser rolls or hamburger buns

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat.  Add beef and cook for 4 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble.  While beef cooks, place mushrooms in a food processor.  Pulse 10 times or until finely chopped.  Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic to pan.  Cook for 3 minutes or until onion is tender.  Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through salt) to pan.  Cook 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender and liquid evaporates.  Stir in pepper and hot sauce.  Serve about 1 cup beef mixture on each bun. 

*filling is gluten free

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

Baby girl LOVES oatmeal and will eat almost a whole batch by herself.  Big sister is sort of off and on as to whether she'll eat oatmeal in the morning and likes to pick the raisins or cranberries out of it.  This recipe was a winner . . . both girls ate it and Daddy & Mommy also gave it two thumbs up!  Bonus:  quick hot breakfast that includes veggies is perfect for school mornings.

Carrot Cake Oatmeal (about 2 cups prepared)

2 cups water
1 cup oats
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 cup shredded carrots

Bring water, carrots, and raisins to a boil.  Simmer for 3-4 minutes.  Add the rest of the ingredients.  Stir, bring to a boil again, and reduce heat to a low simmer.  Cook until liquid is absorbed and oats are soft.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Avocado Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a little rough . . . you have to make it seem like you're not serving salsa in a big bowl or soup that would taste better warm.  I followed this recipe exactly and although I was worried it would seem like guacamole, it didn't and we really liked it.  I know you may not be making gazpacho until next summer, but we're trying to hang onto summer over here.  I go back to work in one week (yikes!) so I've been trying to fit in some last outings with the girls before our fall schedule gets crazy.

We went to the Natural History Museum with some friends to see the Hall of Dinosaurs (highly recommend it & they let me in free as a teacher with my ID).  

I also took the girls to Disneyland by myself.  Daddy ended up meeting us in the afternoon so we could ride the new Star Tours - awesome!  Little sister's enjoyment of Disneyland has really increased since she can sit by herself and she LOVED the carousel and Small World.

And, at home, we've been playing "neighbors" with big sister's new tent / play house, we planted some winter squash in the garden, and for some reason, I've been doing a crazy amount of little girl laundry.  Not sure why it's so much more than normal . . . 

So, if you need one last summer fix before you embrace fall, try this:

Avocado-Corn Chowder with Chicken (4 servings)
(from Cooking Light 8/11)

2 ripe avocados, divided
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
1 tsp. honey
3/4 tsp. salt, divided
1/4 tsp. pepper, divided
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
12 oz. grilled or cooked chicken breast (I used a rotisserie)
1 tsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 c. chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped green onions
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 lime wedges

Peel and coarsely chop 1 avocado.  Place in blender with water, orange juice, honey, salt, pepper, and red pepper.  Blend until smooth.  Place in the refrigerator or freezer to cool it down a little bit (15-30 minutes).

Peel and dice remaining avocado.  Stir diced avocado, corn, bell pepper, and onions into chilled avocado puree.  Spoon chowder into bowls.  Top with chicken and cilantro.  Serve with lime wedges.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Mango Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Maybe it's because I teach on the quarter system and haven't yet gone "back to school" or maybe it's the 90 degree weather, but I'm having a hard time getting it in my head that it's fall next week.  *Quick promotion - look for a fun blog event HERE on the Autumnal Equinox next Friday*  When I took a walk around the Village this past weekend, there were signs for pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin bagels.  Halloween decorations and costumes are everywhere.  So, in defiance, I offer this summery dish.  It's especially for you gluten-free friends out there.  It's vegetarian too and I made it for a main dish for a lunch I had with friends a couple of weeks ago.  

But, since I can't deny that it's back to school season, here is a little video.  Consider this an instruction on how to pack your backpack.  A few weeks ago, we were playing "school" before her actual preschool started so big sister showed me what a student should bring to class. I'm not sure her actual supplies for pre-K last week met her expectations as I made her leave the pet cow home (there also were no wild animals in pre-K . . . at least, not last week). 

Mango Black Bean Quinoa Salad (4 servings)
(from Beantown Baker)

1/2 c. dry quinoa
1/2 c. ripe but firm mango, peeled, pitted & diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
3 scallions, chopped
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
1 T freshly squeezed lime juice
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp cumin (or more to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)

Cook quinoa according to package directions.  In a medium bowl, combine the warm cooked quinoa, mango, red bell pepper, black beans, scallions and cilantro.  In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, oil, cumin and salt.  Pour dressing over the salad and stir to combine.  Adjust seasonings to taste.

Refrigerate salad for at least 4 hours before serving for best flavor.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies

When the little girls go to bed early, naughty things happen in our house.  Like raspberry souffles and peanut butter cup brownies.  I've made different versions of brownies from scratch but don't have one recipe that's my favorite or go-to.  This recipe was chosen because I recently bought the unsweetened baking chocolate discs from Trader Joe's and I wanted to use those.  I found it on Joy of Baking and it's called "Katharine Hepburn's Brownies Recipe" . . . ooh la la.  Maybe I was also a little attracted to this recipe because I recently watched about a half hour of African Queen and about half of On Golden Pond.  I can't watch a whole movie these days without falling asleep!

Bonus:  You only use one bowl.  I left out the nuts and added 6 dark chocolate peanut butter cups (also from TJ's) chopped up.  Heavenly!

Peanut Butter Cup Brownies (9 or 12 depending on how you slice them)
from Joy of Baking

2 oz (60g) unsweetened baking chocolate
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped peanut butter cups

Coarsely chop the baking chocolate and butter.  Melt in a medium bowl placed over a saucepan of boiling water.  Stir in the sugar.  Then, stir in the vanilla and eggs.  Finally, stir in the flour and salt.  Fold in the peanut butter cups.  Spread in a greased 8x8 baking pan and bake at 325 for 30 minutes.  Cool before slicing.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

4 Years

September 5, 2007

One year old in 2008

Enchanted Tiki Room Birthday Party for a 2 year old

Rock Climbing Party in 2010 - three years old!

And, yesterday, my girl turned FOUR
I know it's such a cliche to say that time goes so quickly, it seems like just yesterday, the years fly by . . . but I really have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I have been a mother for four years and that my little girl has changed so much in that time.  In some ways, when I fill in the years between these photos, it seems long.  There were so many days of playing pretend, new adventures, pushing a stroller, long nights, reading books, answering"why?", cuddling and singing, going on vacation, worrying, teaching new skills and new words, changing diapers, and thinking of fun activities to do.  This little girl has taught me so much about life, myself, God, and seeing things through her eyes is always a delight.

The night before her birthday, she wanted to sleep in her sleeping bag in a new playhouse tent she got for her birthday.  I tucked her in and peeked through the window.

Me:  Sleep tight!  In the morning, you'll be four!
Her:  I really will be four tomorrow?
Me:  Yes, you will.
Her:  What will happen when I wake up and I don't fit in my sleeping bag or this house because I'm four?
Me:  You won't grow that much in the night . . . your body will stay the same but you will be four years old
Her:  I'll really be four?
Me:  Yes!

In the morning . . . .

Her:  Look at my arms!  They are so much longer today because I'm four.

I love you baby girl!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Peach BBQ Sauce

First, let me say that I can't believe it's September!  How is that possible??  And, big sister is turning FOUR.  She wants a grocery store cake with Rapunzel's long hair made from yellow icing and hot dogs for her party so I'm not sure I'll have any homemade birthday treats to post, but I'll at least share some pictures soon.

Next topic: chicken breasts.  I don't have the best track record with my husband for making tasty boneless skinless chicken breasts.  He often complains that I've overcooked them and they're dried out.  Which is probably true.  Which is why I have been having him grill chicken when we've had it this summer.  My usual easy method for grilled chicken is to buy prepared pesto and marinate whole pieces or small pieces for kabobs in the pesto for a few hours before grilling.  However, this new grilled chicken is going to become a favorite around here - good blend of sweet and spicy, kid-friendly, and moist.

Some ingredient notes: You can substitute the fresh peaches with 9-10 oz frozen sliced peaches thawed and chopped and you can substitute the adobo sauce with soy sauce (but it won't have the spicy kick).  If you like things spicier, play with increasing the adobo sauce or add a little red pepper flakes to the sauce.

I guess Gwyneth Paltrow published a cookbook recently because on blogs and in food magazines, I've been seeing a bunch of her recipes.  This one is attributed to her from Bon Appetit June 2011.  I also made some fish tacos that were heavenly and one blogger attributed them to her . . . but that's for another post.

Grilled Chicken with Peach BBQ Sauce (4 servings)
from Bon Appetit 6/11

1 c. chopped peeled fresh peaches
1/2 c. ketchup
2 T fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tsp. adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles
salt and pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Combine the first five ingredients in a small saucepan.  Season lightly with salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until peaches are very soft and flavors meld, about 10 minutes.  Remove pan from heat; let cool.  Pour peach mixture into a blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Place half the sauce in a medium bowl (or large ziplock bag).  Add chicken and turn to coat.  Let marinate at room temperature for 20 minutes or in a refrigerator for up to 8 hours, turning occasionally.  Cover and refrigerate remaining sauce.

Prepare a grill to med-high heat.  Brush the grill rack with oil.  Grill chicken until browned and almost cooked through, 4-5 minutes per side.  Brush on all sides with reserved sauce.  Grill until glazed and cooked through, 1-2 minutes more per side.  Serve remaining sauce with the chicken.