Monday, October 22, 2012

Pinterest Macaroni & Cheese

Prep Time: Medium
Source: Pinterest (with adaptations)

You know the mac'n'cheese recipe that's been floating around Pinterest for ages—the unique characteristic being that the noodles are cooked in milk? Well, we fell in love with it last year and now make it regularly. Here's my take on it!

3 cups pasta
1 cup water
1 cup whole milk
(Or else use 2 cups 2% or skim milk)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground mustard
A shake of pepper
3/4 cups sharp(ish) cheddar cheese
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese

In medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except cheese and stir to combine. Place saucepan over medium heat until milk just barely begins to boil, stirring frequently; once milk is showing signs of boiling, turn it down to low. Allow pasta to cook for about 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently. When the milk is mostly absorbed and about the consistency of a cream sauce, test a noodle for doneness. If the noodles need more cooking time, add a little water (about 1/4 cup at a time) and allow to keep cooking until desired tenderness is reached. Stir in grated cheese, remove from heat, and cover for about 5 minutes to allow cheese time to melt. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Cindy's Favorite Pizza Sauce

I would have a picture of this... 
But I'm pregnant, so I just ate it all.

Prep Time: Very easy
Source: I had a few different inspirations for this sauce, but a lot of the basis came from Peter Reinhart's Crushed Tomato Pizza Sauce

If you know me at all, you probably know that I have always hated tomatoes and anything containing tomatoes—from ketchup on down. For most of my life, pizza sauce has been no exception, and I'm still not overly fond of most pizza sauces. Around high school, however, I started noticing that I actually enjoyed some kinds of pizza sauce, but not others. Over the last few years, every time I've had pizza I've tried to identify what elements about it I did or didn't like. Eventually, I had a pretty detailed list of things that I did or didn't like in a pizza sauce. (In case you wondered, it was: Savory, not sweet; fresh crushed tomatoes, not simmered-for-hours tomato sauce; simple and Neopolitan-style; and nothing that got its start in a jar of tomato sauce—turns out there's something in those basic tomato sauce cans I hate!) This summer, with fresh tomatoes from my garden, I decided to take what I learned and apply it to my own sauce recipe. This very simple sauce has since become our go-to recipe. Mahon and I can't get enough of it! It's also very easy to customize to your own taste preferences by adding sugar and other spices. We personally love the fresh-tomato taste, but if you prefer a stewed tomato sauce, feel free to simmer the sauce on low heat for an hour or two before using.

This recipe makes enough for a large pizza or two medium pizzas (unless you are like my husband and would like 1" of sauce on your pizza!), but it can easily be doubled as many times as you need. It can also be frozen and used later.

3 medium tomatoes*
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinaigrette
1 t salt
1/2 t oregano
1/8 t garlic powder
1/8 t black pepper
Parmesan or romano cheese, grated (optional)

If you'd like to remove the tomato skins—gently score a cross into the bottom of each tomato and blanch for about 60 seconds in boiling water. Skin and cut off the tomato tops. Toss in blender along with all other ingredients except cheese. Pulse on the lowest setting until tomatoes are crushed but not puréed. Pour sauce into a bowl. If desired, stir in about 1/8-1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan or romano cheese. (I'd never heard of cheese in pizza sauce before, but it turns out it's pretty common and really delicious!) Technically, you're supposed to allow the sauce to marinade for about an hour before using, but we've done it both ways without a hugely noticeable taste difference—the flavors steep together pretty well when cooking.

Although I initially tried this sauce recipe with a fancy, double-raised, all-afternoon pizza crust recipe, since then I've ended up going back to our tried-and-true favorite pizza crust recipe every time, made with 100% whole wheat flour. I always cook the pizzas for 12 minutes. This crust recipe pairs wonderfully with this sauce! (As evidenced by the fact that I just ate. My. Whole. Pizza. Granted, it was small!)

*Thus far, I've only used fresh garden tomatoes for this sauce. Once I run out, however, I plan to do some experimenting with canned tomatoes, which I'm sure will work just fine too.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Prep Time: Medium (typical for a soup)

I was shocked when I went to find my recipe on this blog earlier tonight and realized I'd never posted it! This is one of my favorite soups. I like to make it on a day when I've just made chicken stock and have a lot of hot stock ready to use! I definitely recommend springing for the "real" chicken broth for this recipe, or making your own. It's really just not the same with buillon cubes!

1/2 cup butter
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
About 1/2 cup frozen corn
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/2 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced (optional—we're both mushroom haters, so we leave these out)
1/2 cup flour
6 cups chicken broth
 2 cups cooked wild rice (1 cup uncooked=2 cups cooked)
1 t salt
1 t yellow curry powder
1 t ground mustard
1 t dried parsley
1/4-1/2 t black pepper
 1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
(You can also use 2 cups half-and-half, but I never have that and always have cream.)

In a large pot on medium heat, melt butter and sautee chicken and veggies for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add flour and stir until bubbly; add chicken broth and all spices. Allow to heat through for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until it has thickened somewhat. Pour in milk and cream, cover, turn heat to medium-low and allow to very gently simmer for 30-60 minutes. The original recipe says at least 1 hour, but I'm never that patient and it always turns out fine! You don't want the soup to boil, but if it does, just give it a good stir and turn down the heat some. Mine has boiled several times and always been delicious anyway!

Freezer instructions: Add all ingredients except cream/milk/half-and-half; add those when cooking after freezing.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Strawberry-Lime Colada (Sugar-Free)

Prep Time: Easy

This delicious smoothie was inspired by what I found when I was cleaning out the fridge this afternoon—both the lime juice and the coconut milk had been pushed to the back of the fridge, next to each other. I decided to throw them into the blender with some strawberries and honey, and the result was even better than I'd expected! We will definitely be making this easy and healthy dessert again.

1 can coconut milk, chilled
1/3 cup lime juice
3 T honey
1/3 cup water
8-10 frozen strawberries
Ice if needed

Combine all ingredients in a blender. The measurements are approximations, so feel free to taste it and add more of something if it needs it. Enjoy this delicious, healthy treat!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Baked Chicken & Spinach Flautas

Prep time: Medium (mostly because they are time-consuming to roll)

This is one of the great recipes I've found on Pinterest. We had these for dinner last night and loved them! We'll definitely be introducing this into our rotation. 

I made a number of changes to the original recipe, for various reasons (making it alcohol free and a little easier to assemble, as well as using the ingredients I had on hand). I also did about twice the amount of filling recommended, so that we'd have enough for leftovers. It made enough for about 4 adults.

2 large chicken breasts
1/2 cup chicken broth
5 or 6 handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped or torn into smallish pieces
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp coarse salt (or about 3/4 tsp regular salt)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 bell pepper, finely chopped
Another 1/4 cup chicken broth
About 2 cups grated mozzarella or monterey jack cheese
10 8" soft taco sized flour tortillas (I'd also like to try this with my homemade tortillas, which are about 6")
Olive oil

Put chicken breasts and first 1/2 cup broth in a medium saucepan; fill with enough extra water to cover the chicken by about 2 inches. Boil for 15-20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. 

Once chicken is cooked, preheat oven to 450. Grease a rimmed cookie sheet or jelly-roll pan with cooking spray. Shred chicken (for a super easy and fun way to do this, see this link! I love Pinterest!). Mix together spinach, peppers, chicken, spices, and remaining 1/4 cup chicken broth together. Cut tortillas in half. Spoon a bit of the filling onto each tortilla half and top with cheese; roll them up starting from the flat side (I found it helpful to tuck the corners in before I rolled it up as well, although it's not quite as authentic!) and tuck them together, roll-side down, on the cookie sheet. We also have used this recipe with whole tortillas, which makes them more chimichanga-style but is a little easier to prepare. Brush tops with olive oil. Bake for 10 minutes at 450, then use tongs to turn flautas over and cook for 10 more minutes on the other side (or until the exposed sides are a dark golden-brown). Serve hot, with salsa if desired.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Tortilla Talk (And a 2nd Flour Tortilla Recipe)

So, I've seen a lot of (identical) recipes floating around the Internet lately that advertise themselves as "fresh tortillas just like Cafe Rio!" I admit, this bugs me every time, because friends—that recipe is NOT anything like the tortillas you will get at Cafe Rio, or any other similar restaurant. Here's why:

The most popular online recipe for flour tortillas calls for four cups of flour and two teaspoons of baking powder. Years ago, when I started making my own tortillas (before I even got married), I tried this recipe. And what I ended up with was a number of rounds of big, puffy flatbread. Even when I rolled them out as hard as I could, the amount of baking powder in the recipe was so large that it caused the tortillas to puff up into something more like Indian naan than Mexican tortillas.

Eventually, after some playing around with the proportions, I adapted that ubiquitous recipe in the flour tortilla recipe that I shared on this blog. My main change was to dramatically decrease the baking powder to just under 1/2 teaspoon. Still, if I let the tortillas sit too long they were apt to get too thick, and because of the baking powder in the recipe and the way it interacted with the dough I couldn't use my tortilla press to smash them—which meant that making flour tortillas was a time-consuming and laborious process involving liberal use of the rolling pin.

And, as much as I loved my tortillas, they weren't like the ones I'd had at Cafe Rio. There was something different about them that I couldn't put my finger on. Earlier this year, when I was in North Carolina, I went to a Relief Society activity where a dear friend gave a demonstration on making fresh tortillas. When I tasted hers, I realized that they were much more texturally similar to the Cafe Rio tortillas I remembered eating. And she made hers using a tortilla press! Once I saw her recipe, I realized the difference—there was no baking powder at all!

Intrigued, I started some more experimenting. At first, I took my own favorite recipe and adapted it so that it didn't use any baking powder, but did involve a dough resting time of 30 minutes (as my friend's recipe instructed). It turned out great, and worked terrifically in my tortilla press (cutting down on the inconvenience factor a LOT!). Then one night, I was impatient and didn't want to wait for my tortilla dough to rest. So I went ahead and made the tortillas without any resting time. And guess what? They turned out perfectly! (The only difference between a resting time and no resting time was that the ones that didn't rest had a little less developed gluten in the dough, which meant that they were a tiny bit more prone to breaking before they were cooked and didn't stretch as well.)

Now, at least once a week we make flour tortillas using this new-and-improved recipe. And yes, friends, this is VERY similar to what they use at Cafe Rio. So don't believe that one going around on Pinterest! THIS is the recipe you want.

(Also, a troubleshooting tip: Tortillas need to cook at a relatively low heat for a longer time. If your tortillas—flour or corn—are breaking or crumbling, it's because you cooked them too hot. I usually set my griddle between 300 and 325.)

One of these days, I'll actually post my corn tortilla recipe too....

Cindy's Flour Tortillas, Version 2.0

4 cups flour (I typically 75%-100% whole wheat)
2 t salt
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups hot water

Heat pan or griddle to 325-ish (do not grease). In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Stir in canola oil. Add water gradually (I usually start with 1 cup, mix, and then add the water about 1/4 cup at a time after that) until dough is moist and holds together without being sticky. Knead with hands for a minute, then divide into balls about the size of a ping-pong ball or smaller. (Your dough balls can be bigger if you are rolling out by hand and not using a tortilla press.) In a tortilla press lined with a sliced-open plastic bag (to prevent sticking), press balls twice (I usually press, pick up the tortilla, flip it over, and press again). Cook tortillas 3-5 minutes on each side. Fill with your favorite taco or fajita fillings.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Healthy Golden Cornbread

Prep Time: Easy
Source: Adapted from Martha White Golden Cornbread recipe

I adapted my favorite cornbread recipe so that it is 100% whole grain (cornmeal and wheat flour) and sweetened with honey instead of white sugar. We love to eat this cornbread with whipped honey butter.

2 eggs
1 cup milk or buttermilk (I use regular milk with about a teaspoon of lemon juice to sour it)
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cups corn meal
1 cup wheat flour
2 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
Heat oven to 400º F. Grease 8 or 9 inch square or round pan (I like to use my smallest springform pan; muffin cups can also be used). In large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour batter into greased pan. Bake for 20-25 min or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. For muffins, bake 15-20 minutes.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Whipped Honey Butter

Prep time: Easy

Growing up, my family often made honey butter by mixing the two together. The result was delicious, but more like honey than butter. When I went to college I discovered whipped honey butter in a local restaurant—a product that tasted like honey, but had the creamy, light, melt-in-your-mouth texture of whipped butter. I though I had died and gone to heaven! A few years ago, Mahon and I decided to try to make our own whipped honey butter. All the recipes I found online had powdered sugar, and since we were going for a healthy product and not something that was artificially sweetened, we didn't want to add that. So we played around on our own, and perfected this sweet treat! It is delicious on bread, scones, cornbread, or just about anything else you can think of. The basic recipe—butter, honey, and a dash of vanilla—is divine, but you can also add in other flavorings. We recently did cinnamon honey butter and orange zest honey butter, and they were both amazing!

1/2 stick butter, room temperature
1/4 cup raw (hard) honey or about 1/8 cup liquid honey
1/8 teaspoon vanilla

Cinnamon, orange zest, or other flavoring (if desired)

In a bowl big enough to accomodate a hand mixer, add all ingredients together. (If using hard raw honey, don't melt it, but do be sure to use softened butter.) With a hand mixer on medium speed, blend ingredients for a few minutes until they are light and hold their shape (like soft whipped cream). If the honey butter is too runny, add a little more (room temperature) butter; if the flavor is too buttery and not strong enough, add honey a little bit at a time until desired flavor is reached. Stores well for a day or two, covered at room temperature, or for about a week in the fridge. If refrigerating, let it soften at room temperature for at least half an hour before using.

Friday, April 6, 2012

"Butter" Beans

Prep time: Very easy

If you know me much at all, you probably have figured out that one of my passions is healthy eating. One of the biggest roadblocks a lot of people seem to run into when it comes to eating healthy is vegetables—America's least favorite food group! In all honesty, I've always LOVED most veggies (thanks, Mom and Dad!) and veggies comprise some of the favorite foods in the Baldwin household.

What I've learned about making good veggies, though, is that it really matters how they were cooked. I want to start highlighting some of our favorite side dishes and the way that we prepare them here. Hopefully you will love them as much as we do!

One side dish we have a few times a month is "butter" beans (baby lima beans). My mom's grandpa had a farm in South Carolina, and I LOVED when we would have fresh lima beans from his garden with plenty of butter. A year or two ago, I started buying frozen baby lima beans at the store and playing around with cooking them until I hit on something that tasted as good as my memories. Most people will say they don't like lima beans, and I think it's because the way a lot of people prepare them, they are very dry and tasteless. These, on the other hand, are rich, creamy, buttery, and delicious! Because lima beans are legumes, they are very high in both protein and fiber (as well as other beneficial nutrients). I usually serve lima beans if we are having a meal that doesn't have meat in it, like a meatless pasta dish or baked potatoes. The protein in the limas makes for a very filling, satisfying meal, and the combination of protein, fiber, and slow-acting carbs in the beans help stabilize your bloodsugar as well.

Frozen lima beans (for a side dish, I usually do 1/4 to a 1/2 cup serving per person)
Water to cook
Salt and pepper
Butter (I typically do about 1/4 to 1/2 a tablespoon per serving)*

Pour lima beans into a small saucepan and add water until the water covers the beans by about 1/2 an inch. Add a generous shake of salt and pepper. Heat on medium high just until the water starts boiling, then turn to medium-low and put a lid on the pot. Let cook for 20-30 minutes (check it periodically to make sure the water has not boiled away), or until lima beans are soft and their skins are just starting to split. Turn off the stove, strain beans in a colander and then return them to the hot pot. Add butter and stir the beans until butter has melted. Serve immediately, with extra salt if desired.

*If you're worried about using butter in this dish, I highly recommend reading this article. It may surprise you, but butter eaten in moderation is actually really good for you!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie Crumble

Source: Adapted from

This is, hands-down, my favorite chicken pot pie iteration we have ever had—and also one of the easiest and healthiest! I changed up the original recipe a little bit; I halved it so that it was more suited to two people rather than a whole family, and I also replaced about half of the called-for chicken with potatoes instead (because I didn't have enough chicken, and as Mahon says—what kind of fool makes chicken pot pie without potatoes, anyway?). I'm including the original proportions of the recipe here, but with my other alterations. Like any chicken pot pie, this really could be done with any veggies you have on hand.

For filling:
3-4 potatoes, peeled and diced
About 1 1/2 chicken breasts, boiled and chopped or shredded (I actually used leftover rotisserie chicken!)
Olive oil for sauteeing
1 cup chopped onion (about half of a large one, or a whole medium one)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 or 4 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks diced celery
3/4 cup frozen peas or corn (or half of each)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 stick butter
1/2 cup flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk

For topping:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (or chili powder, if you happen to have used all the cayenne on your garden to keep away neighborhood cats... long story!)
6 tablespooons chilled (and sliced) or room temperature butter
3/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese
1 cup heavy cream (you can sub some of this for regular milk)

In a medium saucepan with just enough water to cover the potatoes, boil potatoes until they are almost (but not quite) ready to eat. While potatoes are boiling, prepare other vegetables. Once everything is ready, preheat oven to 400. Sautee all veggies together in a large skillet or medium saucepan with olive oil, about five minutes (or until the veggies are beginning to brown). 

While veggies are cooking, get started on the crumble topping. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne/chili powder in a medium bowl. Cut in butter with pastry cutter or fork. Stir in parmesan cheese. Add cream/milk and stir until just combined.

Once the veggies are done cooking, remove and put into a casserole dish, along with the chicken. In the same large pan you used to sautee the veggies, melt butter. Add flour and stir to combine, then add broth. Stir until everything is smooth. Add milk, salt, and pepper, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sauce begins to thicken. Stir sauce into casserole dish with veggies and chicken.

Break topping dough apart with your fingers and sprinkle as evenly as possible over top of casserole. Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, or until topping is browned. Serve immediately. Try not to eat the whole thing.

Honey Hot Chocolate

As with the past few years, I gave up sugar for Lent again this year. {Although going to the hospital sort of killed it for 2 weeks.} I tried something this time that I hadn't tried before—hot chocolate made with honey. I guess I'd always assumed it would have too much of a "honey" flavor... but boy, was I wrong! This stuff. Is. Amazing. In all honesty, I like it better than regular hot chocolate. One day while at the hospital I sat sipping a Starbucks hot chocolate from the lobby and all I could think was, "Hmm, this is good... but not as good as that honey hot chocolate I've been making!"

Because everyone has their own individual tastes, this is a very loose recipe. Feel free to change up the ratios of honey and cocoa to make a sweeter or more bitter hot cocoa. The exact recipe I'm providing tends to make a rich, very dark cocoa; you might want to add in a little more honey to taste if you like yours sweeter. You can also do water instead of milk, but I'll just warn you... it's nowhere near as good!

For one serving 
(you can double this recipe as many times as you like to get a bigger batch):

1 cup milk
1 tablespoon cocoa powder*
1 tablespoon honey*
1/4 tsp vanilla
Other additives as desired

*A note on proportions: The cocoa and honey are really "to taste." I like mine very dark and rich, so I usually use more like 1.5 teaspoons honey and a heaping tablespoon of cocoa. Mahon likes his sweet, so I do a scant tablespoon of cocoa and a tablespoon of honey.

Stovetop: Combine milk, honey, and cocoa in a small saucepan and warm over medium heat. (It's best to mix them with a whisk to make sure the cocoa doesn't clump.) If using raw honey, you'll want to add that to the milk first and let it melt before adding the cocoa. Once the desired temperature is reached, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Don't boil the milk.

Microwave: In a microwave-safe mug (for one serving) or glass bowl or glass measure (for larger amounts), heat milk and honey together until desired temperature is reached (usually 1-2 minutes). I find it helpful to loosely cover my mug; it sort of "steams" the milk and prevents it from developing a skin. Remove from microwave (if you're using raw honey, make sure the honey is melted and integrated into the milk) and stir in cocoa and vanilla. Because the cocoa tends to clump, I find it is easiest to use a small whisk to combine everything.

You can also add anything else you would like—cinnamon is good (just make sure you add it at the same time as the cocoa so that it doesn't clump in the milk), as is a teaspoon of extra virgin coconut oil (and it's really healthy too!). The sky is the limit!

Oh, and if you're feeling particularly indulgent, add a little drizzle of heavy cream into your cup to cool it down! You will not regret it!