Monday, April 29, 2013

BBQ Chicken Quinoa Salad

Now that the weather has warmed up, I've traded soup dinners for salad dinners.  We usually have salad as a main course once or twice a week in the spring and summer.  This recipe isn't dramatically different from some other quinoa salad recipes here on the blog (click on the quinoa label on the list on the right to check them out) but it's becoming a favorite.  I love BBQ chicken pizza, BBQ chicken green salads and with a quinoa base, it's just as delicious and packs a big protein punch.  I bought already cooked shredded chicken in barbecue sauce from Trader Joe's.  You could also use leftover grilled chicken or cook some chicken in BBQ sauce in your slow cooker.  

It was great the first time around and I polished off the leftovers in a couple of days eating this for lunch.  If you think you're going to have extra, serve the avocado on the side - it gets a little grey and slimy if you leave it in the salad and put it in the refrigerator.

BBQ Chicken Quinoa Salad (serves 4)
Original recipe here

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup corn
1 cup black beans
2 cups cooked barbecue chicken
1-2 avocados, chopped
2-4 T shredded cheese (I used a Mexican blend)
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
4 scallions, chopped
2-4 T chopped cilantro

Combine everything except the avocados and cilantro together in a bowl and toss gently.  Serve the avocado on the side (see note above) and garnish with the cilantro.   I'd start with about half of the barbecue sauce and add more if the salad seems dry.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  You can serve it warm or make it ahead and  refrigerate it first.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Sausage & Kale Pasta

I've made this pasta a couple of times now and it is delicious.  My husband is a huge fan of pastas without a red sauce (less heartburn from all the acid) and I'm a fan of finding flavorful ways to use kale.  My kids still like red sauces so I made them a red sauce with the sausage  and then I could spice up ours even more. This basic recipe idea & method lends itself to different variations.

Any kind of noodle will do - I've used rotini & fusilli in the past.  I also usually buy chicken or turkey sausage (spicy Italian and uncooked) for this recipe.

Sausage & Kale Pasta (4 servings)
originally from Kalyn's Kitchen

3 links (12 oz) hot Italian sausage
8 oz kale leaves, thinly sliced
6 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
3 T (plus more for the pan) olive oil
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (more or less depending on your tastes)
2 cups chicken broth
3/4 lb pasta
1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)

Heat a little olive oil in a large pot, squeeze the sausage out of the casings and cook until it's browned, breaking up larger pieces and so it's crumbled.  Remove the sausage from the pot and if there's a lot of grease from the sausage, pour or wipe it out.   Add 3 T olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook over medium until you can barely start to smell garlic (don't let it brown) and then add the kale.  Saute the kale with the garlic and oil for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the kale is all wilted.  Add the chicken broth and the cooked sausage to the pot.  Lower to a gentle simmer.  Let it cook while you make the pasta.

Add the pasta to boiling water and follow the package directions for cooking time.  Save 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.  Gently mix the cooked pasta into the sausage & kale mixture.  I usually don't' add it all at once because I don't like there to be too many noodles proportionate to the sausage and kale.  Add a little pasta water until it's just moistened.  Then mix in the Parmesan cheese and serve pasta hot, with extra Parmesan cheese to add at the table.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread

Before I get to today's recipe, an update on the baby.

Around Easter, she weighed as much as a 5 lb bag of flour 

Now, she's about this big (my hand for reference) and weighs close to 7 lbs

Her feet are still tiny but big proportionately to her body

She looks like a doll when Little plays with her.  I think Little thinks that the baby 
is her own personal doll . . . and she's nicknamed her "Bay-buh" 

And, she smiles!  The smiles are rare and much sought after by everyone in our family but totally worth the effort it takes to coax one out of her.  So far, Daddy gets the most smiles!

Last weekend we were invited to a friend's house for brunch and I brought some baked goods.  Since two of my friends don't eat gluten, I tried a new GF pumpkin bread.  Neither of them told me what they thought of it, but as a gluten-eater, I thought it was good - moist, flavorful, good texture - and my kids gave it two thumbs up.  I'll probably be making this again soon for my family and I might play with the ingredients some . . . it seems a little weird to have 2 cups of sugar and then all that lemon juice.  Maybe with a less tart liquid, you could decrease the sugar content?  Or does the acid in the lemon juice play some other part in the recipe?  I'll post an update if I have good luck with those adjustments.  One other plus about this recipe is that you use one bowl and just dump everything in the stand mixer - super easy and not many dishes to wash afterwards.  That means more time for smiles with the baby!

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Bread
Recipe from One Good Thing by Jillee

2.5 cups brown rice flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
5 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
4 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 (15oz) can pumpkin puree

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, baking soda, and xanthan gum on low speed until combined.  Add the rest of the ingredients one at a time, on low speed, mixing well between each ingredient.  When everything has been added, increase speed to medium and beat for 2-3 minutes.  Pour into two greased 9x5 loaf pans.  Bake for 60-85 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Almond Pancakes

I came across this on Pinterest recently and I liked the idea of pancakes without white flour.  These would accommodate a lot of diets (they're gluten free and even Paleo, I think).  I was a bit skeptical because not all of my Pinterest experiments turn out well so I just tried out a half batch.  I knew that if I promised my kids pancakes for breakfast and they turned out bad, we'd have a major morning crisis on our hands.

As you would expect of the ingredients, they were a little gritty in texture (I did use the finely ground almond meal from Bob's Red Mills) but I liked the nutty almond flavor.  I might experiment with adding a little more water (or almond milk?) to the batter to make the pancakes a bit thinner.  They reminded me a little of corn cakes that I've had before.  After a few bites, Middle asked me to make "the other kind" of pancakes but for the amount of protein they pack, I'd eat them again!

Almond Pancakes (serves 2-3)

1 1/2 cups almond meal
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
2 T cooking oil (I used vegetable oil - coconut oil would probably be tasty)
1 tsp sugar or other sweetener (optional)
dash of vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon

Mix all ingredients together.  Cook as you would "normal" pancakes.  They might not have bubbles on the surface as much as normal ones but if you look closely, you'll see small bubbles and dry edges indicating it's a good time to flip them over.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pesto Chicken Two Ways

Well, I tried to think of something that would be really awesome to post about for my 400th post but these days, it's just normal everyday food with the goal of making something that my whole family will eat.  So, before I begin, if you're reading this I really appreciate your support of my blog!  I can't believe I've made it to 400 posts . . . here's to 400 more!!

I love pesto - the garlic & basil flavors - but not necessarily on pasta.  It's a little too oily and sometimes too heavy for me.  But, one of my favorite ways to grill chicken is to marinate it in pesto and this week, I made a crock pot version of that same dish.

I have made my own pesto before (mini-chopper doesn't work so well but my hand blender works awesome) and bought it from the store (Costco sells a large container that's a great value but if I'm not going to use that much, I go for Trader Joe's) and honestly, there's not a huge difference in the end result for the recipes I've made.  Keeping some chicken in the freezer and a jar or two of pesto in the pantry will give you an easy dinner option - either on the grill or in the slow cooker.

The other night, I used chicken thighs n the slow cooker, because the organic ones were on sale this week and I served it over cous cous with broccoli on the side.  It was a hit with my picky eaters!

Pesto Chicken Skewers

Cut boneless skinless chicken breasts into 2-3 inch pieces and put them in a large ziplock bag.  Add pesto to cover and marinate in the refrigerator for a couple hours (I've also done it as long as overnight).  Take the chicken out of the marinade and put it on skewers.  If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for about 30 minutes before threading the chicken on the skewers.    Discard the pesto.  Grill until the chicken is done - length of time will depend on how thick your chicken chunks are.

Slow Cooker Pesto Chicken

6-8 boneless skinless chicken pieces
6 oz jar of pesto (or about 3/4 cup homemade)
1-2 cups chicken broth

Put the chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker and cover with the pesto.  Pour the chicken broth over so that the chicken is barely covered (you're not making soup) and give it a stir.  Put the lid on and cook for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.

Other great recipes (from my blog) with pesto:

Pesto Potato & Green Bean Salad

Pappardelle with Scallops & Pesto

Pesto Stuffed Zucchini

Lasagna Stacks

Monday, April 8, 2013

Banana Coffee Muffins

The baby is six weeks old tomorrow!  For me, six weeks is a big milestone - a little better sleep, time to start working out again, and our "new" life with the baby begins to feel a little more "normal."  In our house, part of what defines normal is when mama starts cooking again.  I planned meals for the week and took all 3 girls to the grocery store (bribing the two big ones with a donut if they listened and didn't run away) and I'm ready to go!  And, to celebrate the 6 week mark, here's a new blog post.

These days, I really look forward to a little morning caffeine pick-me-up after being up at night with the baby.  Even when it's not delivering a lot of caffeine, I like coffee flavored sweets.  A few weeks ago when I was looking at some different recipes to use up some overripe bananas, I thought this one looked unique and I made a batch of muffins.  They were good - the coffee flavor wasn't too strong and my girls liked them a lot.

Banana Coffee Muffins (makes 1 dozen)
adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1.5 T strong coffee
1 teaspoon baking soda
1.5 cups flour
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a large bowl, mash the bananas and mix in the butter, brown sugar, egg, vanilla, and coffee until well combined.  Sprinkle in the baking soda and stir in the flour until it's just evenly moistened.  Fold in the chocolate chips.  Divide the batter between 12 muffin cups (greased or lined with paper liners) and bake for 20-30 minutes or until a tester comes out clean.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Our Easter Activities

We didn't quite get to everything on our Easter activity list - since the girls had already made empty tomb cookies and since they had a particularly bad attitude on the afternoon we were going to do them, we didn't make the cookies this year.  However, we had fun dying Easter eggs and we made Hot Cross Buns.  The hot cross buns turned out fantastic - it reminded me why baking from a raised yeast dough is so amazing.  They were white flour goodness!  We ate a few, gave some to friends, and unfortunately, the saran wrap got left open and the next morning, they were hard and yucky.  I had ambitions of making bread pudding out of the rolls but let's be honest - I would probably be the one here to eat most of it and I'm trying to get back to my normal shape, not eat loads of bread soaked in cream and eggs.

Hot Cross Buns (made 2 dozen)

1.5 cups boiling water
1/4 cup chilled butter, chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup evaporated milk
1 T (2 half ounce packages) active dry yeast
2 large eggs, beaten
5-7 cups bread flour
1 T butter, melted
3/4 cup confectioner's sugar

Put chopped butter into a large bowl and pour boiling water over it, stirring until butter is dissolved.  Stir in sugar and salt.  Stir in 1 cup of evaporated milk and let mixture cool until lukewarm (about 95 degrees F).  Keep the rest of the evaporated milk in the can - you can use this to make the icing at the end.

Stir yeast into lukewarm liquid.  Mix in eggs and 4 cups of flour.  Mix in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough.  I think I added about an extra cup and a half.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.  Place dough in a greased bowl and turn it over so that the top is lightly greased.  Cover and let it rise in a warm place for 1 hour.

Punch the dough down and knead for 3 minutes.  Shape the dough into buns.  Set the buns on greased or lined baking sheets (I used Silpat - you can use parchment paper).  Cut a cross into the top of each bun.  I used kitchen shears and made a cut lengthwise and crosswise.  Cover and let them rise for about 30 minutes or until they've doubled in bulk.  Bake at 425 degrees for 7-12 minutes.  Remove buns from the oven and brush with melted butter.  Set on a rack to cool.

Mix confectioner's sugar with enough evaporated milk to make a thick icing (or you can use regular milk).  Ice the cross that you cut into each bun.  Let stand until icing thickens on buns.  Best eaten the same day.

On Easter, we had a great day with family at church and at my parents' house.  My girls wore fancy Easter dresses, had an egg hunt with cousins and really enjoyed the day as well.  Hope you have good Easter memories from 2013 as well!