Sunday, January 31, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

Sunday Soup

When I was pregnant with my first daughter I craved baked potatoes a lot, which was funny because I hardly ever bought potatoes or ate them and most especially not in that form. It's not that I didn't like them, I just think I was going through a phase or something. Baked potatoes are simple, nutritious and a quick meal. The only thing that could be better than that is in soup form! This will warm you right up on a cold day and give you all the luvin' you need from some home-cooked comfort food.

Baked Potato Soup
4 baking potatoes (about 2 1/2 lbs.)
2/3 cups flour
6 cups 2% milk
1 cup (4-oz)extra-sharp shredded cheddar cheese, plus more for garnish
1-2 Tbsp. seasoned salt (more or less, to taste)
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1/2 cup green onions, plus more for garnish
1 lb. bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake for 1 hour, or until tender. Cool. Peel potatoes; coarsely mash. Discard skins.

Place flour in large pot; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk, until blended. Cook over medium heat untiil thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes). Add mashed potatoes, cheese, salt and pepper. Stir until cheese melts. Remove from heat. Taste for seasoning. Do not undersalt.

Stir in sour cream and 1/2 cup onions. Cook over low heat 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil).

Garnish with shredded cheese, green onions and bacon.

Source:Adapted from Cooking Light

Linked to...
This Week's Cravings @ Mom's Crazy Cooking

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pita Bread

I was planning on making these pitas to go with dinner tonight and while I was at the grocery store earlier I decided to check out their pitas, and maybe grab some for back up, in case I changed my mind later and decided not to make them. When I checked out the price, over $3.00 for a pack of 6, I decided NOT to have a back up and just make them. Boy am I ever glad I did! I have actually been wanting to make these for so long. I'm so glad I finally got around to making them today. This is such an easy recipe and it takes hardly any time at all, other than the time it takes to raise. The best part is when Ben came home from work and saw that I had made these, he said that I was SUPER cool and was totally amazed that I could make pita bread. I didn't let him in on my little secret of how easy they are to make! Don't ever buy pita bread again--go and make these!

Makes 8 pitas

3 cups bread flour (I used half whole wheat)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 packet instant yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups hot tap water
2 tablespoons olive oil

Put all the dry ingredients in a mixer fitted with a dough attachment. Pulse to combine. Add the oil and water; start with 1 1/4 cups water. Mix for about 20 seconds if it looks too dry add more water, a Tbsp. at a time. It should look a little sticky. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes. Once done mixing, remove to a bowl sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled.

Punch dough down and divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and cover for another 20 minutes to let the dough rest.

While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. If you have a baking stone, preheat that in the oven as well. If not, just turn a cookie sheet over and put it on the rack to preheat.

Prepare a work surface to roll out the dough balls. Sprinkle a little flour on your work surface as well as the rolling pin. Roll the balls to about 1/8-inch thick.

Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can on the stone (or cookie sheet).

They should be baked through and puffy in about 3 minutes.

Slide the pitas off the baking sheet to a cooling rack and bake the remaining pitas. Once the pitas have slightly cooled, cover with a towel to keep warm. Serve immediately. Store any unused pitas in a ziploc bag.

8 Servings
Calories per serving: 184

NOTES:To make pita crisps, mix in a small bowl, oilve oil, lemon juice and greek seasoning. Cut pitas into wedges and put them on a baking sheet. Brush mixture on top and place under the broiler for a minute or two. Watch closely , they crisp up quick!

Source:The Fresh Loaf

Garlic and Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus

I'm happy that I'm finally getting to use my sun-dried tomatoes that I dried last year. It's been fun experimenting. This hummus was a real treat! It is very quick to pull together, and has lots of flavor. Plus it's healthy for you. I served it with freshly baked pitas along with our dinner of Lemon Chicken and Rice with Artichokes. This would be great at a party or when company comes for dinner.

1 cup water
*6-8 slices sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 cup water
1/2-1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground pepper
2 garlic cloves
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas, drained

Bring to boil 1 cup water and remove from heat. Put dried tomato slices in water, cover with lid and let sit for 10 minutes.

In the mean time, combine water, tomato, salt, pepper and beans in food processor or blender and process until smooth. Add more water, if necessary, for desired consistency. Pour into a small serving bowl.

Remove tomatoes from water. If you have a hand blender, use it to puree the tomato, adding the tomato water to thin out the mixture. If not, finely chop the tomatoes with a knife.

Spoon the tomato puree in a circle onto the hummus. Swirl together, without completely incorporating the tomatoes into the hummus. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Serve with pitas.

5 1/4-cup Servings
Calories per serving: 109

NOTES:If you do not have dried tomatoes, you can usually find them in the produce section of the grocery store or you can substitute them for packaged sun-dried tomatoes in oil (in which case, you would no need to rehydrate them in the cup of water).

SOURCE:Adapted from Cooking Light.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Orange Edamame Salad and How to segment and orange

Mmm! I forgot how much I love this salad. It is bursting with color and flavor and super healthy. It's the perfect accompaniment to grilled fish or chicken.

For the salad
1 8-oz pkg frozen edamame
2 oranges, segmented (see instructions below)
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 cup baby carrots, julienned
romaine lettuce or baby spinach leaves, to your liking
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

For the dressing
3 Tbsp. rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. orange vinegar (or freshly squeezed orange juice from the oranges)
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. freshly grated orange rind
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
salt and pepper

Cook the edamame according to package directions (I use the steamables and just cook them in the microwave). Drain and cool. In a large salad bowl, combine all the ingredients for the salad except the cilantro.

In a smaller bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Pour over the salad and top with cilantro.

How to segment an orange

Gather a cutting board and a knife. Make sure your knife is nice and sharp. Place the orange on the cutting board and cut off both ends then stand it upright.

From top to bottom, run the knife along the curve of the orange, cutting off the peel and the pith. Do this all the way around.

Run the knife along the side of each orange segment to cut it free and remove it.

What you should have left is the skins. (you can squeeze this into the dressing for the orange juice if you don't have orange vinegar).

And voila! You've just segmented your first orange.

Linked to...
Seasonal Sunday @ Real Sustenance

Monday, January 25, 2010

Blueberry Lime Cakes with Honey Lime Curd

Blueberry Lime pound cake
2 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (4 oz.) low-fat cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tsp. grated lime rind, about 2 limes
3 large eggs
1 large egg white
2 1/2 cups flour (or 12 1/2 oz. if you have a food scale)
2 Tbsp. flour
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup light sour cream
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice, about 1/2 lime
2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a mixing bowl sift together 2 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and set aside. In a separate bowl, add sour cream, lime juice and vanilla extract and whisk to combine.

In a mixing bowl, fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together sugar, butter and lime zest on low for about 4-5 minutes. With the mixer on the lowest speed, add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating after each addition.

Add the dry ingredients alternately with the wet ingredients in 3 additions each, beginning and ending with the dry mixture. Move quickly to avoid over-mixing the batter. Scrape the sides of the bowl and mix for about 15-20 more seconds. Toss the blueberries in 2 Tbsp. flour and gently fold them into the batter.

Prepare mini bundt pan(s), (12 mold capacity) by generously coating with cooking spray. Scoop batter into each mold, filling about 3/4 full. If you only have one pan, cook half the batter at a time, or see other options below.

Bake for 22-24 minutes. When a toothpick inserted shows just a touch of crumbs or comes out clean, the cake is done. Cool for about 3-4 minutes then gently ease them out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

Yield: about 2 dozen bundtlettes

*Bundt pan option: Prepare a 12-cup tube or fluted bundt pan by spraying generously with cooking spray. Make sure all the crevices are coated. Pour the batter in and gently jiggle so it spreads evenly. Bake for about 60-75 minutes. Be especially vigilant the last 10 minutes of cooking as you may have to add or decrease the time.

*Loaf pan option: Prepare 2 4x8 loaf pans by spraying generously with cooking spray. Bake as above, 60-75 minutes.

NOTES: If you decide to eat the cake without the curd, double the lime juice and zest. You can also substitute lemon for the lime in both the cake and the curd.

Honey Lime Curd
1/3 cup honey
1 Tbsp. grated lime rind (about 2 limes)
2 large eggs
2/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)
2 Tbsp. butter

Combine first 3 ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Cook until the mixture is light in color (about 2-3 minutes). Stir in lime juice and butter; cook for 5 minutes or until mixture thinly coats the back of a spoon, stirring constantly with a whisk. Cool. Cover and chill (mixture will thicken as it cools). Makes a little more than a cup.

NOTES:Lime curd can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can easily double the recipe and freeze half of it in a heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag. Thaw in refrigerator, and use with 1 week of thawing.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Shrimp Scampi with Linguini

For years I have collected so many recipes and many of them I never get to! This is one I wrote down on a scratch piece of paper when I was teaching school and it has been in the back of my recipe binder since then. I've been trying to go through all my old recipes and throw out the ones I don't want and finally try the ones I do.

I'm glad I finally pulled this one out. It is very quick and easy and so tasty just with a few simple ingredients. It's great for a weeknight dinner.

1/2-3/4 lb. linguini
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large shallot
red pepper flakes
1 lb. shrimp, peeled & deveined (tail on or off, you choose)
salt and pepper
1/2 cup white cooking wine
1/2 lemon, juiced
fresh parsley

Cook pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water.

In skillet, melt 1 Tbsp. butter and 1 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-high heat. Saute shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes until shallots are translucent; about 3-4 minutes. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and add to pan. Cook until pink; about 2-3 minutes. Remove shrimp and set aside. Add wine, lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add remaining Tbsp. of butter and oil. When butter has melted, return shrimp to the pan along with parsley, cooked pasta and reserved pasta water. Stir well and season with salt and pepper.

4 Servings
Calories per serving: 445

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cookbook Giveaway

Hey, head on over to Picky Palate for this sweet cookbook giveaway! The book is called The Ultimate Shortcut Cookie Book by Camilla Saulsbury and is pakced with 745 beautiful recipes! Good luck.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Barbecue Smoked Cheddar Mac

I absolutely LOVE smoked cheddar! I don't usually buy it because it's about twice the price of regular cheddar and Ben's lactose intolerant (even though he loves it too)! The last time we had it was a splurge. We were on our way apple picking last fall and stopped at Gossners Cheese Factory. We always load up when we go there. I think we came out with two grocery bags full of feta, pepper jack, cheese curd (or turd as Ben calls it), mozzarella, swiss, smoked cheddar and more I'm sure.

When I came across this recipe a few weeks ago, I couldn't wait to try it. I knew I already had some leftover Cafe Rio Pork in the freezer that it would go great with. All I had to do was find some smoked cheddar. This dish turned out to be amazing! I love the combination of the sweet and spicy of the pork with the smokey, creaminess of the cheese sauce. I halved the original recipe to suit our family, but feel free to double it for yours. I served it with a side of coleslaw and some peas.

1/2 lb mini farfalle pasta (or whatever pasta you choose)
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
2 cups milk (I used whole)
2 1/2 cups, plus 1 cup shredded smoked cheddar cheese, divided (about 8-10 oz.)
1-2 cups Cafe Rio Sweet and Spicy Shredded Pork

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

Melt butter in a large dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour; cook for 1 minute stirring. Slowly whisk in milk until smooth. Increase heat to medium high, stir continuously until liquid thickens and comes to a low boil. Reduce heat to low and stir in 2 1/2 cups cheese until smooth. Add salt and pepper. Mix the sauce and the pasta then pour into a large baking dish. Top with shredded pork and remaining 1 cup of cheese. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Let cool for 5-10 minutes and serve.

4 Servings
Calories per serving:590

SOURCE:Adapted from Picky Palate

NOTES:I use whole milk when I make mac n' cheese dishes because it makes it extra creamy. If you're worried about the calories, whole milk doesn't have that many more calories than 2% milk. The calories mostly come from the cheese and pasta, that's why I don't skimp on the milk. You can find low-fat cheeses, but I've never seen low-fat smoked cheddar before. The way I get around eating foods like this is to use portion control; I usually give myself about a 1 cup serving and then load up on the veggies.

When I make my Cafe Rio Pork, I portion out what we don't eat after a couple of days and freeze it in 1 1/2-2 cup servings. This is the perfect amount for a quick weeknight meal, whatever you choose to use it for.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jerk-Style Chicken- A tribute to Haiti

Here's a chicken dish that is sure to brighten up any dull wintry day. The flavors in this marinade are really great. They are bold, yet, not overbearing. I like using the chicken thighs because the meat is a little more tender and juicy. I know it's still winter, but, if you can, grill this on your outdoor grill. It will kick up the flavor just a little more. If not, a regular grill pan or saute pan will work as well.

1 tsp. grated lime rind
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. finely chopped jalapeno pepper
1 Tbsp. ground allspice
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 lb.)
3 (6-oz) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
cooking spray

Combine first 12 ingredients in a blender; process until well-blended. Pour mixture into a large heavy-duty zip-top plastic bag; add onion and chicken. Seal bag; marinate in refrigerator 1-2 hours, turning bag occasionally. Prepare grill.

Remove chicken from bag; discard marinade. Place chicken on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill chicken, covered, 5 minutes on each side or until one.

Serve with Island Rice

6 servings:2 thighs or 1 breast half
Calories per serving:169

SOURCE:Cooking Light

NOTES:If you are running short on time and forget to think ahead about the marinade, like I do, set the chicken out on the counter for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, make the marinade. Marinate the chicken, unrefrigerated for about 15-30 minutes.

Instead of using chicken breasts and thighs, I just used a large (10 pc.) package of chicken thighs. They came with the skin and the bone. I removed the skin but didn't worry about the bone. The chicken takes a little longer to cook with the bone in so make sure to check for doneness.

Island Rice-A tribute to Haiti

My family loves rice, especially my husband. Although I'm not a fan of just plain rice, I really enjoy this rice dish. The pineapple lends a sweetness to the rice but is balanced out by the lime juice, cilantro and onions added at the end of cooking. This pairs perfectly with the bold flavors of the Jerk-Style Chicken.

2 1/2 cups water
1 cup uncooked long-grain rice
1/2 cup chopped dried pineapple
2 tsp. butter
1/2 tsp. grated lime rind
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. chopped green onions
2 1/2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice

Bring 2 1/2 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan; add rice and next 4 ingredients. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat; stir in cilantro, onions, and juice.

Serve with Jerk-Style Chicken

6-1/2 cup servings
Calories per serving:171

SOURCE:Cooking Light

Monday, January 18, 2010

Egg Nog Cranberry Muffins

Yes, until recently, I still had egg nog left over from the holidays, which is pretty amazing considering how much we LOVE egg nog in our family I'm surprised it lasted as long as it did. But, I'm getting it out of my system until next holiday season; this is the last of the holiday-type baking. With that said, these muffins were really yummy. I wasn't sure how I'd like the tart cranberries with the sweetness of the muffin but they paired perfectly. The cranberries weren't too tart and I loved using fresh ones. The only thing I would change about this recipe would be to bake them in muffin liners. As you can see, I didn't and the outsides were a little browner than I would have liked.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup eggnog
5 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp. rum extract
1½ cups coarsely chopped cranberries
cinnamon and sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line 14-16 muffin cups with paper liners. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir to combine. In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, eggs, eggnog, melted butter and rum extract. Stir until well combined. Mix in the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold the cranberries into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin liners, filling them about two thirds of the way full. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon.

Bake for about 18-22 minutes, or a until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Calories per muffin (1/16):167

SOURCE:Adapted from Annie's Eats

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Soft Garlic Knots

These little garlic knots are a great accompaniment to any meal and they're super easy to make. The recipe, I ended up reworking to fit my immediate needs, actually had the dough rise 2 times instead of one. But, as fate would have it, whenever I plan to make rolls to go with dinner, I always forget to start making them until I'm half way done with dinner. I usually end up not making them because I don't have time for them to raise properly. However, I wasn't going to forgo these "knotty" things, they were just too tempting. It worked out for me, only letting them raise once and I actually only let them raise about 15 minutes. I think because my kitchen was already warm they rose quickly. Make sure you watch your dough so they raise as you would like them.

For the dough:
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast
1 ¼ tsp. salt
2 tbsp. olive oil
¼ cup lukewarm milk
1 cup hot tap water

For the garlic butter:
2 tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. Johnny's Garlic Spread & seasoning (If you can't find this you could substitute Italian seasoning and add a little fresh garlic)

In in a mixing bowl, fitted with dough hook, combine the the dry ingredients. Add the olive oil, milk and water. Mix about 10-20 seconds and check to see if additional flour or water is needed. Dough should look sticky. Knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly oiled surface.

Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 10 inch long rope and tie into a knot. Take the end lying underneath the knot and bring it over the top, tucking it into the center. Take the end lying over the knot and tuck it underneath and into the center. (Watch here on YouTube if you need a visual). Transfer shaped rolls to a baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for 45 minutes, until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 350° F. Mix the melted butter and Johnny's seasoning. With pastry brush, brush each knot with garlic butter. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes.

Yield:12 rolls
Calories per roll: 127

Chicken and Barley Soup with Mushrooms


I made something similar to this several years ago, but it was more like a barley pilaf. Ben's asked me many times since then to make it and I finally gave in. I don't know what took me so long, this is delicious! This is perfect for a Sunday, it comes together really quickly and it's very easy. Many of the recipes I looked at called for chicken stock but I decided to use beef stock and I'm glad I did, even though there's chicken in the recipe. I think it gave it a more robust flavor. You could certainly use chicken, beef or vegetable stock and it would be fine. You could also substitute 1-2 cups shredded beef roast for the chicken to make it a beef and barley soup. I love the splash of balsamic vinegar at the end, it adds to the depth of the flavor.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2-1 cup carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart beef stock
2 cups water
1/2-3/4 cup barley
1 chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp. thyme
1 bay leaf
1-2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Parmesan cheese

In a stock pot, heat butter and oil. Add mushrooms and shallot and saute until tender. Add carrots and garlic and saute another minute. Add broth and water, barley and chicken pieces; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Test for seasoning; add salt and pepper if needed. Splash in a couple Tbsp. balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Italian Meat Loaf with Basil and Provolone

Oh! Right now I am kicking myself for not keeping my basil plants going indoors this winter. I LOVE fresh basil, but if you try to buy "fresh" basil in the grocery store, it's not really that fresh, rather wilty, packaged in plastic and too expensive for a quick weeknight meal if you ask me. I miss my Logan Albertson's that had REAL fresh basil, packaged in bunches with big bright leaves and only cost a little over a buck.

Even though I had to substitute dried basil for fresh, this meatloaf is sure to knock your socks off; as much as meatloaf can. The ketchup adds a nice sweet flavor and the provolone, oh the provolone is so yummy and gooey. My kids even ate this and they can be picky sometimes. I made this a few years ago and don't remember it being this good. This will be sure to show up a little more on our monthly menu in the coming months. Serve with oven fries*.

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
3/4 cup fresh basil, or 2-3 Tbsp. dried basil
1/2 (2 oz.) shredded provolone cheese
1 large egg
2 garlic cloves
1 lb. ground round
Cooking spray
1/3 cup ketchup

Finely chop tomatoes and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.

Combine chopped tomatoes, 1/2 cup ketchup and next 7 ingredients in a large bowl. Press meat mixture into a loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Spread 1/3 cup ketchup over meatloaf. Bake for 1 hour. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Cut into 12 slices.

6 Servings
Calories per serving: 294

*Oven Fries
Quarter 4 medium potatoes (I prefer reds) and slice about 1/8-1/4 inch thick. Put them in a bowl and drizzle them with olive oil and sprinkle generously with seasoned salt. Toss to coat evenly. Spread them on a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 30-40 minutes.

SOURCE:Adapted from Cooking Light

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I should have posted this at the end of the summer when I was actually making these. But, I will post it now, prefacing my next dinner post that uses sun-dried tomatoes.

At the end of the summer and the end of my garden, after I had canned all the salsa, spaghetti sauce, barbecue sauce and stewed tomatoes that I could handle, I still had a bunch of tomatoes left and didn't know what to do with them. My mom suggested that I dry them in the oven so I gave it a try. Then she surprised me with an early Christmas present; a food dehydrator! So much fun.

If you've ever endeavored to buy sun-dried tomatoes, they're posh! Try making these this summer and you can use them year round for soups, Italian dishes, homemade tomato paste or sauce and many other things.

*Roma tomatoes are best for dehydrating because they have a lower water content. But other tomatoes can be dried as well. Make sure they are not low-acid tomatoes, they do not dry well and turn black.

*Make sure the tomatoes are fully ripe. If they are not, store at 60-70 degrees before processing, but not in the fridge.

*Wash tomatoes and remove center stem core. For Romas, slice lengthwise in 1/2-3/4 inch slices or halve or quarter. Dry skin-side down. You may remove skins if you want by blanching. For round tomatoes, slice 1/2-3/4 inches thick. You can sprinkle them with sea salt or Italian seasoning if you wish or just leave them plain.

*Dehydrator method: Dry at 140 degrees F until dry. They should be tough to crisp when dry.

*Oven method: Place tomato slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment, silpat, or sprayed with cooking spray. Set your oven temperature to the lowest setting (about 150-200 degrees F). Bake for 6-12 hours. Check them periodically as some will dry faster than others.

*Storage: Do not chop up tomatoes until ready to use. Store in air-tight container or zip-top bag up to 6 months in the fridge or 1 year in the freezer.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Strawberry White Chip Scones

I love breakfast! I especially like it when it's fresh and either hot off the stove or hot out of the oven. Most mornings, I make me and the girls (Ben sleeps late because of his shift)eggs and toast, mush (cream of wheat or oatmeal), my favorite pancakes that I grew up eating, or my favorite pancakes that I discovered as an adult. If I get up early enough, or at least before my littlest one, I love to make muffins, scones, coffee cake, quickbread, or whatever. That seems to be way too rare lately though; the girls have had to PRY me out of bed in the morning the past few weeks! Maybe it's the post-holiday slump, or maybe just the post-flu slump that has left me exhausted for weeks it seems.

Anyway, I did manage to make these delicious scones the other day. When I saw strawberries on sale at the grocery store, I grabbed a couple knowing I could make these and my oldest daughter would devour the rest. And that she did.

I used several recipes to get the finished product I was looking for. Some used dried strawberries, others added walnuts. I decided to add white chips because the flavor combination seemed to go well together. Knowing that I was going to have these for breakfast, I only added just enough to get a taste but not overwhelm the scone with sweetness or heaviness. The scones turned out light and a little softer than traditional scones.

1 1/4 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
6 Tbsp. unsalted cold butter, diced
2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 large egg white
1 Tbsp. orange rind
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 cup strawberries
2 tsp. sugar

Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a food processor, fitted with a blade attachment, add flours, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Pulse to combine. Add cold butter and mix until crumbly. Combine buttermilk, egg white and orange rind; add to flour mixture, stirring until just moist. Fold in white chips and strawberries.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With hands well floured, knead the dough four times. Pat into an 8-10” circle. Cut into 12 wedges. Place on baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of sugar. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Calories per scone (1/12): 227

SOURCE:Adapted loosely from Annie's Eats

NOTES:If you do not have a food processor with a blade attachment, to cut in the butter to the dry ingredients, you could do one of two things. First, you could cut in the butter with either a pastry blender (hand-held), or use two knives, slicing back and forth. Second, you could melt the butter and it to the wet ingredients and follow the directions from there.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cider-Roasted Chicken with Cider Reduction

After making this chicken, I definitely think brining is the way to go. It makes the meat so tender and moist and, in this case, brining with apple cider gives it a slightly sweet taste. This would be great for a fall Sunday dinner or make it using turkey and put it on your Thanksgiving table and all will enjoy!

Cider-Roasted Chicken w/ Cider Reduction
3 quarts water
1 quart apple cider
1/4 cup kosher salt
1 Tbsp. black peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 (6-lb)roasting chicken
2 cups apple cider
1 large onion, peeled and halved
4 flat-leaf parsley sprigs
4 garlic cloves

Combine first 5 ingredients in large stock pot and bring to a boil, stirring until salt dissolves. Remove from heat; cool completely. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Rinse chicken with cold water; pat dry. Trim excess fat. Pour brine into 2-gallon zip-top plastic bag. Add chicken; seal. Refrigerate 8 hours or overnight, turning bag occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400.

Bring 2 cups cider to a boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until cider is thickened and reduced to 1/4 cup (about 15 minutes). Set aside.

Remove chicken from bag; discard brine. Pat chicken dry with paper towels. Place onion halves, parsley and garlic in cavity. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under chicken. Tie legs. Place chicken on rack of a broiler pan (or if you don't have one, just on top of the onions). Bake at 400 for 1 1/2 hours or until thermometer registers 175. Remove from oven (do not turn off oven). Carefully remove and discard skin. Baste chicken with half of reduced cider; return to 400 oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven; baste with remaining cider reduction. Transfer chicken to platter.

Place a zip-top plastic bag inside a 2-cup glass measure. Pour drippings into bag; let stand 10 minutes (fat will rise to top). Seal bag; carefully snip of 1 bottom corner of bag. Drain drippings into small bowl, stopping before fat layer reaches opening; discard fat. Serve jus over chicken. About 8 servings.

Serve with Whipped Sweet Potatoes

SOURCE:Cooking Light

Linked to...
This Week's Cravings @ Mom's Crazy Cooking
Make Ahead Meals For Busy Moms

Whipped Sweet Potatoes

A few years a go when we lived in Logan, we ate at Hamilton's Restaurant several times. If any of you are familiar with Hamilton's, you'll know of their famous whipped sweet potatoes. They are so yummy! One of the times we were there, my friend asked the manager for the recipe and he gave both of us a copy. I can't believe I have waited this long to actually try it; I really love sweet potatoes. I made some adjustments in size for our family and ommitted some of the butter and sugar, which there seemed to be a lot of, and it didn't lack in flavor one bit becaue of it. This is an easy side dish to "whip" up and you can even use your leftover cans of yams from Thanksgiving or Christmas.

For the potatoes:
3 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

For the topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. flour
1/2-1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into tiny pieces

Peel and cube sweet potatoes. Put them in a pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Boil until tender. Drain; cool slightly. Put potates, sugar, butter and vanilla in mixing bowl with wire whisk attachment. Whip. Add egg and whip to combine. Layer potato mixture in a baking pan. Combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the potatoes. Dot with little pieces of cold butter. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. About 6 servings.

Serve with Cider-Roasted Chicken

Linked to...
This Week's Cravings @ Mom's Crazy Cooking
Make Ahead Meals For Busy Moms

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Double chocolate mint truffle cookies

So the other day as I was walking into the grocery store, totally starving, and a blast of warm bakery air hit me. I smelled freshly baked cookies and immediately saw the table in front of me stacked with bags of cookies. I almost went and grabbed one but then I remembered that I had just picked up some Greek food for Ben and I, and I had all the ingredients at home to make cookies that would be just as good, if not better! Plus, why spend $2.99 on a dozen cookies when you can make a double batch for less?

Well, when I got home, I remembered I still had several bags leftover of different flavored Hershey's kisses I had bought to use for my holiday baking. I chose the mint truffle kisses as the star ingredient and decided it would pair best with a chocolate cookie. I enlisted Shelby as my little helper and this is what we came up with.

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 pkg. Hershey's mint truffle kisses, unwrapped and quartered

Preheat oven to 350.

In mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy; about 3 minutes. Add vanilla and eggs and mix. Add flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt; mix to combine. With a spatula, fold in the kisses.

With a small scoop, drop onto baking sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand. Bake about 10-12 minutes or until puffed. Let stand for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

SOURCE:Adapted from Toll House

NOTES:The cookies were delicious! If you've never had the mint truffles, they're intoxicatingly good. The only change I'd make in the recipe would be to use half butter and half butter-flavored crisco. Try these, you won't regret it!!!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Garlic Ranch Chicken Pizza- 3 sauces

I knew this was going to happen! I went to take a picture of the last 2 pieces of pizza while I had good, natural light but this is what I got instead. So, you'll have to settle for the picture I took at night, in the dark, with my flash. I think it still looks pretty yummy.I posted this originally back in August, I think, but I've made it since then with different sauces, so I thought I'd updade it.

for 2 pizzas

1/2 recipe homemade white bread
Sauce (your choice)
2 small grilled chicken breasts,chopped(I seasoned them with powdered ranch dressing)
1 roma tomato, diced
green onion, sliced
mozzarella cheese

Make bread dough and split in half. Spray pizza pan, cookie sheet or pizza stone with cooking spray and roll out dough. If you only have one stone to cook on, leave the other half of the dough in a ball and when the first pizza is done, slide it off and roll the remaining dough out. Spread half of the sauce on the dough, then sprinkle with chicken, tomatoes, green onion and cheese. Bake in 425 oven for 15 minutes. Repeat with second pizza.

Sauce 1: Garlic Ranch Cream Sauce
2-3 garlic cloves
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour
salt & pepper
2-3 tsp. powdered ranch dressing
1 cup chicken stock
2/3 cup whipping cream

Heat butter in frying pan and saute garlic on medium heat for a minute. Add the flour and whisk. Let bubble for about a minute. Add chicken stock and cream, whisking to combine; let bubble until thickened. Add ranch powder and salt & pepper to taste. This makes enough for 2 pizzas.

Sauce 2: Johnny's Garlic Spread
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp. Johnny' Garlic Spread (I bought mine at costco)

Mix together and refrigerate a couple hours before use. Use half on each pizza. This nifty jar of seasoning has come in handy a lot lately! I've used it here, for my pizza, because I didn't have any ranch dressing, I've used it to season my chicken and I always use it for my garlic butter when making garlic bread. It's terrific!

Sauce 3: Your favorite bottle of ranch dressing

NOTES:As far as the sauces go, I really like the garlic ranch cream sauce, it has a lot of depth to the flavor and is, as stated, creamy. Johnny's is my next favorite and ranch dressing my least. I have to say, I'm not sure if I would use a bottle of ranch because I just like to make things from scratch, but hey, it's pretty convenient if you find yourself in a bind.

You could also add cooked and crumbled bacon to this pizza and switch up your cheeses if you like; make it your own. Here's a tip about chicken stock when making the first sauce: If you use chicken stock in the can, you'll have almost a cup leftover to refrigerate and use within 2-3 days or freeze for later. However, I like to use chicken soup base or buillon granuals so I only have to make as much chicken stock as I need and not have any leftover. I small jar of soup base takes up a lot less space than a case of chicken broth and it's more cost-effective.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Cashew Chicken and Broccoli

I hate to even show this picture, but I took it at night so I had to use my flash instead of natural light. Don't let it fool you though, this cashew chicken is de-lish!

For the sauce:
1/2 cup oyster sauce
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
4 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 cups water

For the stir fry:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
3-4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, cut in thin wedges
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14-oz pkg. frozen broccoli
1 8-oz can water chestnuts, chopped
fresh red hot chili peppers, seeded and cut into slivers (optional)

hot cooked rice

In a small bowl, combine ingredients for the sauce and set aside.

Cut chicken and onions and set aside.

In large skillet or wok, heat half of the oil over medium-high heat; add onion and stir-fry 2 minutes; add peppers (if desired), frozen broccoli and garlic, cover and cook until broccoli is thawed. Remove lid and let any water that accumulated evaporate. Remove veggies and set aside.

Heat the other half of the oil in the skillet and add the chicken. Stir-fry until no longer pink.

Stir the sauce and pour over the chicken. Bring to a boil and let thicken. Return veggies to skillet and toss to coat. Cook 1 minute more.

Serve with hot cooked rice and top with cashews.

NOTES:I try to make some kind of stir-fry or rice dish at least once a week not only because my husband loves it but because it's also a great way that I can sneak in meat and veggies when feeding the girls. I just use my hand chopper and chop everything real fine, then mix it with the rice and they eat it great.

The sauce in this dish is a great and flavorful base sauce for cashew chicken. The rest is pretty versatile. You can substitute beef for chicken, snow peas for the broccoli, add carrots or whatever other veggies you like in your stir-fry. I love adding water chestnuts to stir-fry, not really for the flavor but for the texture. My mom makes this with a lot of heat (6-8 chili peppers), and it's great but with the little ones, I try to tone it down a little so they'll eat it. This is definitely a family favorite!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Butternut Squash Lasagna

1 box oven ready lasagna
2 medium butternut squash, cubed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup onions, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 sprig sage
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
6 cups milk
6 tablespoons flour
6 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for the top
1 pinch nutmeg

Peel and cube squash. Heat olive oil large skillet. Add onions and sauté until golden brown. Add garlic, squash and sage. Sauté for 1 minute. Add chicken stock. Cook until squash is tender and stock evaporates.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350. Spray a 13x9 inch baking dish.

Heat milk in a small saucepan. Melt butter in another saucepan. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes. Whisk hot milk into flour. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Remove from heat. Add in 1 cup parmesan cheese and stir until melted and smooth.

When squash is done cooking, remove from heat and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Discard sage.

Pour 2 cups sauce into prepared baking dish. Layer 3 lasagna sheets on top of the sauce. Spread the squash mixture over lasagna and cover with 2 more cups of sauce. Repeat layers ending with sauce. Sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.
Bake for 40 minutes.

9 servings
Calories per serving: 321

SOURCE:Adapted from Barilla

NOTES:We had over 2 dozen butternut squash from our garden this year and I've still got so many left. I'm continually on the lookout for a good squash recipe so I can eat up my squash before it goes bad like it did last year! So far I've made butternut squash soup, and this amazing butternut squash cake, and today, butternut squash lasagna.

This is a great vegetarian dish, which we all need every little while. I love the mildness and sweetness of butternut squash. Paired with the sauce in this recipe, this dish had a smooth and creamy taste, appealing to not only me but my girls as well. However, I felt it lacked a little in seasoning. This would have been perfect with some cooked up pancetta or bacon, a little more sage and maybe some thyme as well.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

For the cupcakes:
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup + 2 Tbsp. buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup good cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

For the icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 cup creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 cupcake pans with 24 paper liners.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 2 sugars on high speed until light and fluffy, approximately 5 minutes.

Lower the speed to medium, add the eggs 1 at a time, then add the vanilla and mix well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and sour cream. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.

On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately in thirds to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture. Mix only until blended. Fold the batter with a rubber spatula to be sure it's completely blended.

Scoop batter into the cupcake pans with large scoop. Bake in the middle of the oven 18-22 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes, remove from the pans, and allow to cool completely before frosting.

To make the icing, put the confectioners' sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping down the bowl with a rubber spatula as you work. Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth. Do not whip, the cream will start to separate.

Frost each cupcake with Peanut Butter Icing and sprinkle with chopped peanuts, if desired.

Source:Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

NOTES:These cupcakes are really delicious and the icing is to die for! The cake part is not my favorite, it was a little crumbly. I think I will try a more dense cake next time and there definitely will be a next time!
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