Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Curried Cauliflower and Potato Soup

Prep time: Easy
Source: My own brain!

When we first got married, the list of vegetables Mahon really liked was pretty short. In the five years since then I've found ways to prepare a lot of veggies so that he shares my love for them, but broccoli and cauliflower are still—at best—tolerated. Several years ago when I mentioned that they were known as "cruciferous vegetables," he misheard me, and ever since then he refers to them as "Lucifer's vegetables"! Since cauliflower is one of my favorite veggies of all time, I decided that I was going to do my best to come up with a cauliflower soup recipe that he liked. I also wanted to make a creamy, comforting soup that was dairy-free, since I am dairy sensitive.

1 head cauliflower, chopped
4 russets, peeled & diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t kosher salt
1/8 t chili powder (optional—my curry powder was VERY mild
1/8 t black pepper
1 t curry powder
EVOO for sauéeing
6 cups broth

Sautee all veggies together 5-10 minutes until starting to brown/tender. Add spices and broth and bring to boil. Simmer at least 30-40 minutes until potatoes and cauliflower are soft (you can leave simmering longer if desired). Puree with immersion blender (or puree in batches through a regular blender), reserving a few veggies for chunks if desired. Serve with crusty bread.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Honey-Peach Pie With Streusel Topping

Prep time: Easy-medium (typical for a pie)
Source: My own brain, with crust inspiration from the Southern Living cookbook

You guys, there is a reason that this post doesn't have a picture (yet). THIS PIE IS SO DELICIOUS that Mahon and I just single-handedly consumed it in about 28 hours. Not only that, but I'm seriously tempted to march out this afternoon and buy another bag of peaches so that we can make it again, stat. It's the perfect blend of flavors with just enough sweetness to make it killer good, but not so much sweetness that it makes you want to keel over—and because it only uses 1/4 cup sugar and a bit of honey to sweeten the whole pie, it's relatively "healthy" as far as pies go. It. Is. So. Good. Go take that bag of overripe peaches that is breeding fruit flies and make it now!

For crust:
(A quick note on the crust—you CAN do a white-flour crust with shortening instead of butter for this recipe. You can. But using mostly whole-wheat flour and butter last night I seriously got one of the flakiest, crispiest, most deliciously flavorful pie crusts I have ever created. So really, I recommend doing it just as it's written.)

1 1/2 cups flour (I did 1 cup whole wheat, 1/2 cup white)
3/4 t salt
1/2 cup cold butter, sliced (unsalted if you have it)
4-5 T ice water
(If you really need an extra tablespoon or two of water, go ahead. I don't know if it's because I live in a desert or what, but I always seem to end up on the high end of pie crust water ratios, or exceed them a little.)

Mix together flour and salt and cut in butter until the mixture is crumbly and the pieces of butter are small. Sprinkle water over mixture one teaspoon at a time, stirring gently with a fork in between, until dry ingredients are moistened and there is just enough moisture in the dough for it to loosely hold together. Shape into a ball (it won't hold together very well, and that's OK) and cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until ready to use, or for at least 20-30 minutes.

For Filling:
4-5 cups of fresh ripe (or overripe) peaches, peeled and sliced
Honey (I didn't measure, but probably used about 1/8-1/4 cup)

For Streusel Topping:
3 T flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 T cinnamon
1/4 cup oats
1/8 t salt
4 T cold or room-temperature butter

Slice peaches into a medium-sized bowl and drizzle with honey. Cover and refrigerate. Assemble streusel in a small bowl by mixing dry ingredients together and then cutting in butter until mixture is crumbly; set aside.

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly dust a countertop or table with flour and use a floured rolling pin to gently roll out the pie crust. When it's evenly thin and large enough to fit your pie plate, fold (gently) into quarters and place in your pie plate, then unfold. Trim excess pastry along edges and shape them as desired.

Pour or spoon peaches into pastry shell. Sprinkle streusel topping evenly over top of filling. Bake pie at 425 for 10 minutes and then reduce heat to 375; bake for 20-30 minutes, or until crust and streusel are browned, and pie is bubbling a bit around the edges. Allow pie to cool before serving.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Quinoa Patties

Prep time: Easy-medium

I'm always on the lookout for interesting new recipes, but especially right now—the last trimester of pregnancy has brought with it some pretty severe food intolerances to meat and dairy, so we've had to get pretty creative in the kitchen! This is a recipe I pinned to try a few weeks ago. I was initially skeptical—I like quinoa, but would it really be able to hold its own in such an unadorned main dish? Mahon wasn't so sure how he was going to feel about this dinner, either, so both of us approached it with a little hesitation. However, it didn't disappoint! We both loved it and mutually decided it should join our rotation. Mahon tried various toppings on his patties (I think maybe his favorite was BBQ sauce?) but decided he might like them best with gravy, so that the flavor of the patties could shine through a little more. I guess we'll have to try that next time! I halved the original recipe for the two of us, but ended up wishing I hadn't, as it only yielded 1 serving of leftovers and not 2.

In the future, I'd also like to play around with switching up the spices in these to create different flavors.

(Yield: About a dozen patties)

2 1/2 cups quinoa cooked in broth, cool enough to touch*
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 t salt
1/4 t black pepper
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley (or about 1 T dried)
1/2 cup fresh parmesan cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup crushed crackers (Ritz or saltine), bread crumbs, or oatmeal
1 T extra-virgin olive oil

Combine eggs, salt, pepper, and quiona in a bowl. Stir in parsley, parmesan, garlic, and bread crumbs. (Go ahead and add a little more crumbs, or a teaspoon or two of water, if your mix seems too wet or dry.) Let stand five minutes. 

Heat olive oil over medium heat in large skillet. Form mixture into patties with hands (about 1" thick) and cook until the bottoms are browned (between 5-10 minutes, depending on how hot your stove is). Flip and cook about 5 minutes on second side. Remove from pan and continue until all the mix is used up (you may need to add more EVOO to your pan in between batches—I did).

Freezer instructions: Flash freeze uncooked patties on cookie sheet; place in ziploc bag when frozen. Cook from frozen (will need to increase cooking time a few minutes).

*Everything I read online says that quinoa quadruples when cooking, but I think that's crazy... mine never expands to that degree. I would say it tends to triple. After experimenting with several different ratios, I typically cook my quinoa with one cup grain to 1 1/4-1 1/2 cups broth.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Rolls) (Gluten-Free)

Prep time: Very easy
Source: Adapted from Our Best Bites

Two or three years ago, I made this recipe as the original instructions indicated—using cheddar and parmesan cheese. Neither Mahon nor I were especially blown away by them, and I never made it again. Last summer, we went for the first time to Tucano's, a local restaurant chain that serves Brazilian churrascuro (grilled meats & veggies) and fell in love with their pao de queijo. In trying to figure out why we'd loved the Tucano's rolls so much more than the ones I'd made a few years before, I did a bunch of research and found that most of the recipes online call for only parmesan, rather than parmesan and cheddar. Although I was skeptical that parmesan could be the cheese in the Tucano's rolls, which are very mild-tasting, we decided to give it a try and adapted the recipe from Our Best Bites to use only parmesan. To our surprise and TOTAL delight, we had hit on exactly the right cheese! Our rolls were even better than the ones at Tucano's, since we ate them straight out of the oven and they were incredibly fresh and light. I'm embarrassed to say that between the two of us, we downed the whole batch in one night!

1 large egg
1/2 c milk
1/4 c canola oil
1 cup tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)—don't substitute this! Every recipe I read agreed that the tapioca flour is what makes these rolls unique and authentic.
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 cup grated (fresh) parmesan cheese
Any other desired spices for topping

Preheat oven to 400. Grease two mini muffin tins and set aside. In a blender, add all ingredients except cheese and blend until smooth. Add cheese and pulse 2-3 times. Immediately pour into your prepared muffin tins. (We found that filling them 1/2-2/3 of the way worked the best, though the batter is thin and tends to pour faster than you expect!) You can top with a sprinkle of extra cheese, a bit of kosher salt, or any other herb or spice you'd like! (Rosemary is also DELICIOUS.)

Bake 15-20 minutes or until the rolls have puffed up (they will puff quite a bit!) and are just barely golden on top. Ours took exactly 15 minutes. According to the original recipe, the yield varies depending on how full you fill your muffin cups; we ended up with about 20.

Serve immediately. These made a great companion to a meal of Black Bean Soup (also a Brazilian recipe originally from OBB!).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Healthy No-Bake Cookie Bites

Okay, okay... these definitely won't win any awards for looks.
But they are SO, SO YUMMY!

Prep time: Easy
Source: Adapted from GimmeSomeOven.com

I pinned this recipe on Pinterest a long time ago and decided that it would be a perfect little post-baby snack to add to my freezer collection. I made some modifications based on what I had on hand, and what I thought would taste good. You might even call these my version of "lactation cookies," since oats, flax seed, and coconut oil are all supposed to help a new mom's milk come in... but in all honesty, I just think they taste good! ;) These work really well both as a snack (since they're a decent source of both protein and fiber) and a pretty guilt-free treat. They remind me a lot of no-bake cookies, although less gooey and with a more complex flavor. The variations on this recipe are endless, so don't hesitate to make substitutions of your own! If my baby ends up (HEAVEN FORBID) being sensitive to chocolate, I think I'll end up making these again and skipping the cocoa powder. As much as I adore them the way they are, I suspect they'd be pretty good as peanut-butter-bites too!

1 1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup crisp rice cereal
1/2 cup ground flaxseed or whole-wheat flour (I used 1/4 cup each)
1 T cocoa powder
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
2 T coconut oil
1/4 cup honey

Combine oats, cereal, flaxseed/flour, and cocoa in a medium mixing bowl. In a smaller bowl, melt coconut oil in the microwave and then stir in peanut butter and honey. Add this to the dry mixture and mix with a spoon until everything is integrated and just moist enough to hold together fairly well (this takes some patience). Refrigerate for about half an hour to firm up the mix, and then use your hands to press into small balls. Store, covered, in the fridge.

(To freeze mine, I laid all of my cookie bites out on a cookie sheet and flash-froze them, then transferred them to a plastic freezer bag. When I'm ready to eat them, I'll probably either pull a few at a time out and let them thaw for half an hour or an hour, or else I'll take the whole bag out and store them in the fridge instead.) Post update: Actually, it turns out these are fantastic straight out of the freezer. And, um, I'm just sayin'... they may not make it to be postpartum snacks, after all! Maybe we can consider this batch "end-of-pregnancy sanity savers"???

Friday, February 15, 2013


Prep time: Medium
Source: Inspired by my friend Sacha, who introduced me to them, but the recipe is really my own

For as many recipes as I have on this blog, there is one whole category of meals which we make frequently that is conspicuously missing! My dad served his LDS mission in Mexico, and fell in love with authentic Mexican food while he was there. Because of that, I grew up with him frequently making dishes (like fresh tostados—still one of my absolute favorite meals!) from masa harina, or Mexican corn flour. When I got older, he taught me how to make a good masa dough to be used in recipes like corn tortillas, tostados, and gorditas. However, my dad's method—and now mine—of cooking with masa is very much "a little bit of this, then just enough of that to get the right consistency," so since none of my recipes use actual proportions, I've never typed them up! However, I'm determined to get my favorite masa recipes on this blog.

Because pupusas are El Salvedorean and not Mexican, I'd never heard of them until my friend Sacha asked me to teach her how to work with masa so that she could make some pupusas for her husband. Soon after that, I started making them as well, and Mahon and I were hooked! We now make these frequently, and I've never met anyone who doesn't love them. Since they're an all-in-one kind of dish, they also make exceptionally good picnic or traveling food! In El Salvador, they're often topped with curtido, which is a type of fermented cabbage salad, but if we don't have that we just top them with sour cream.

Like tamales, you can fill these pupusas with just about anything you like—meat, beans, cheese, or a combination of all three! I usually use whatever we happen to have on hand, and will often make them meatless. The recipe I'm including here is one of our favorites.

A note on the yield with this recipe: As I said above, I really don't usually measure any of this! These are all rough guesstimations, so feel free to play around with any of the proportions if they don't feel right to you. I am guessing this recipe, followed closely, would yield 12-16 pupusas, which is normally about how many I try to make (enough for the two of us to have for dinner and lunch the next day—so it essentially serves four).

4 cups masa (you can find this is the Latin aisle of any grocery store)
1/2 t salt (I like using kosher salt—it's a little more of a zing!)
2-3 cups warm water
1 chicken breast, boiled and shredded
1 cup pinto or black beans
1 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1 t salt
A dash of chili powder
1/4 t cumin

Preheat a griddle or ungreased skillet to about 375 degrees. In medium mixing bowl, combine masa and salt. Add warm water and mix with a wooden spoon or your finger (my preference) until the masa dough is roughly the consistency of wet sand. In separate bowl, mix together shredded chicken, beans, cheese, and spices.

There are a few different ways to assemble your pupusas. I actually made a video demonstrating these different ways a few months ago, but for some reason I can't get it to do anything, so I'll have to hope I can describe each method adequately!

The first way is to separate your masa into balls a little smaller than golf balls and roll them out (or smash them with a tortilla press) into small tortillas. Take two of your tortillas and layer them on top of each other, with a generous scoop of filling in between. Pinch the edges of the tortillas together to seal in the filling and cook for a few minutes on each side until done. 

The second way is to take a ball of masa about half the size of your fist and gently flatten it out with your hand until it fills your palm. Cup your hand a little to create a little bowl shape, and then press a spoonful of filling into the crater and gently work the edges of the masa dough up around the filling until the edges meet and you end up with a ball of masa dough with filling encased inside. Gently roll this ball out or smash with a tortilla press (you will be able to see filling through the sides—that's just fine), and then cook on both sides til done.

The third (and most authentic) way, which is actually our favorite way of doing it because it produces by far the best texture (and is kind of fun, too!) is to follow the first few steps of method #2 until you  have your ball of masa with filling encased inside. Then, instead of rolling it out like you would a tortilla, gently "slap" the ball back and forth between your palms, rotating it around as you go to keep it circular. This can take a little practice, but it's really pretty fun once you get the hang of it! (And don't worry—ugly pupusas still taste fantastic!) After a few slaps back and forth, your pupusa should be a disk about 1/4" thick. Press this gently onto your pan or griddle and cook on both sides til done. (This method will take a little longer to cook than others, since it produces thicker pupusas—I let it cook on the first side until the edges of the pupusa start to look dry, and then flip it and cook 3-5 minutes on the second side as well.)

Serve hot with sour cream and salsa or contido.

Berry Chocolate Coffee Cake

Prep time: Medium
Source: Mostly from my own head; the cake base is adapted from a few other recipes

Yesterday morning I decided that we needed a Valentine's-appropriate dessert to follow our dinner of heart-shaped pupusas. Because I've really been in the mood for a rich, delicious coffee cake this week, that's what came into my mind! What could be more perfect for Valentine's than a coffee cake laced with just-barely-sweetened berries and studded with dark chocolate? After tasting our creation last night, Mahon and I decided: Pretty much nothing! This is definitely a recipe we'll be keeping and making again.

For Berry Ribbon:
1 cup frozen mixed berries
1/2 T honey

For Cake:
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups flour
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
3/4 t salt
1 cup plain Greek yogurt or sour cream
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips

For Streusel Topping:
1/4 cup butter (cold and sliced, or room temperature)
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 t cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour an 8" or 9" pan (I used a round springform pan). In small saucepan on stove, heat berries and honey together and simmer for a few minutes, or until they have made a syrup. If desired, roughly blend berry syrup using an immersion blender or regular blender (our mix had large whole strawberries, so this kept the chunks to a manageable size!). Set syrup aside.

To prepare the streusel topping, combine all ingredients in small bowl and cut together with a fork or pastry blender until crumbly. Set aside.

In small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer with beater attachment, cream butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt/sour cream and blend batter until smooth. Fold in chocolate chips.

Fold half of the cake batter into your prepared pan. Pour berry syrup evenly over batter. Add remaining batter on top of syrup; using a rubber spatula, swirl the batter and syrup together to create a berry ribbon. Top with streusel topping and bake 45-55 minutes, or until edges are beginning to brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool at least a few minutes before eating—the cake is much easier to cut when it's completely cooled, but if you're like us, you won't be able to wait that long!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Apple-Peanut Butter Snack/Breakfast Bars (Gluten- and Sugar-Free)

Prep time: Easy
Source: HappyHealthyMama.com, via Pinterest

After hearing lots of people talk about intense postpartum hunger, I'm trying to get some healthy, filling snacks in my freezer for after the baby comes, so that I have something quick and easy to grab when hunger strikes (especially in those early days of breastfeeding, when I imagine my hands will be pretty tied!). Yesterday I was scouring through old Pinterest pins looking for recipes that might work, and I hit on this one. I wasn't really sure how the apple, peanut butter, and honey would go together, since they're all strong flavors, but after making them this afternoon I couldn't stop myself from eating two straight out of the pan! I'll definitely be keeping this recipe around. Best of all, between the oats and the peanut butter, these little bars are very satisfying! (A note—although they look a little like granola bars in the pictures, don't be fooled; they're much more like a soft, moist breakfast bar.)

I 1 1/2-sized the original recipe so that it would fit in a 9x13" pan.

3 cups rolled oats
1 1/2 cups grated apple (I used all of a medium-sized apple and it was perfect)
1/4 cup + 2 T peanut butter
3/4 cup honey
2 eggs
3/4 t cinnamon
3/4 t vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 baking dish and set aside. In large bowl, mix together grated apple and oats until thoroughly blended (make sure that the apple isn't clinging together in clumps, which it likes to do!). Add all other ingredients and mix thoroughly (mix will be very wet). Press into pan and use the back of your mixing spoon to smooth. Bake for 20 minutes (until the edges start to brown), and allow to cool thoroughly before cutting into bars.

To freeze these, I placed them on a plastic-lined cookie sheet after I'd cut them, put more plastic wrap on top, and flash-froze them for about 3-4 hours. Then I pulled them off and put them into a freezer ziploc bag. To eat them later, I plan to allow them to thaw at room temperature or pop them in the microwave for a minute to reheat.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Raw Peanut Butter Fudge (Gluten- and Sugar-Free!)

Prep time: Very easy
Source: From this pin, adapted from this recipe

A few years ago, I started wondering how one made chocolate. I figured that if I could figure out how to make my own chocolate without much sugar, I'd be saving money AND eating healthy, right? I read online that you can "make" chocolate by mixing cocoa powder with sweetener and an oil. (I put "make" in parantheses because really, making chocolate is an intense process that involves straight cocoa beans and all sorts of complicated steps like "conching.") I tried it and let's just say, it was a fairly nasty failure.

This year, however, I've seen lots of recipes for raw fudge popping up around the internet. They are all pretty similar—cocoa powder, plus coconut oil, plus a sweetener, plus another ingredient to add flavor and richness. I tried one last summer with raspberries in it that was delicious, but the combination of cocoa powder and raspberries gave me some of the worst canker sores I've ever had! Since then, I hadn't attempted another raw fudge/"homemade chocolate" recipe. A few weeks ago, however, I pinned this "Primal Fudge" recipe that used peanut butter, and yesterday, while in the mood for a sweet-but-not-terribly-unhealthy treat, I made it. Let's just say... it's really, really hard to stop myself from eating the whole pan! The fudge is rich, creamy, and incredibly decadent. If you like your chocolate a little sweeter, consider increasing the honey and decreasing the cocoa a bit. And now that you know the basic recipe for raw fudge, the sky is the limit! Try swapping the peanut butter out for other things, like fruit.

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla

In a medium-sized bowl (I used a large soup bowl), melt the coconut oil. Using a whisk for smoothness, mix in the peanut butter, honey, and vanilla until all the lumps are gone. Add cocoa powder and whisk thoroughly until mixture is thick and smooth. Pour the mixture either into muffin cups (as the original recipe suggests), or into a small lined pan (I used a large loaf pan lined with plastic wrap). Chill in fridge for about an hour before cutting. Store in fridge, as the fudge is very soft and will get pretty melty at room temperature. Enjoy—and try not to eat the whole pan!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Whole Wheat Waffles

Prep Time: Easy-medium (typical for waffles)
Source: Adapted from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook

This has been our go-to recipe for waffles ever since we got married. Made with white flour and sugar, as the original recipe calls for, it produces light, deliciously buttery waffles that crisp up just enough on the outside. After we got a wheat grinder this last Christmas, however, we used some of our freshly ground white wheat flour to make them, and oh my goodness, are they good! We made them probably 4 times in the days after Christmas, and have made them several times since. For classic white waffles, replace the wheat flour with white flour and the honey with white sugar.

1 3/4 cups white wheat flour
1 T baking powder
1/4 t salt
2 eggs
2 T honey
1 3/4 cups milk
1/2 cup canola oil or melted butter
1 t vanilla

Preheat waffle iron. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together eggs, honey, milk, oil, and vanilla. Gently scoop flour into bowl so that it sort of sits on top of the wet ingredients, and then add baking powder and salt on top of flour. Use your whisk or fork to gently sift the baking powder and salt into the flour a little, and then combine all ingredients together and mix until smooth. 

For our waffle iron, we've found that using about exactly 1/3 cup of this batter is absolutely perfect, but yours might be different! Cook according to the directions on your waffle iron. Serve hot with butter and syrup. Waffles typically come out of the iron a little soft and crisp up in the first minute or two on the plate.

Classic Pancakes

Prep time: Easy-medium
Source: Ray family recipe (I believe it's originally from the Betty Crocker cookbook)

This is another recipe I was shocked to not find on my blog! This is the classic pancake recipe I grew up loving, and it will always be one of my absolute favorites. The original recipe yield is only about 5-6 pancakes, so we typically will double it, depending on how many we're planning to feed.

1 egg
1 cup flour*
1 T baking powder
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 cup milk

Preheat griddle or skillet to about 350. In medium-sized bowl, beat egg until fluffy. Gently scoop flour into the bowl and add all other dry ingredients on top of them. Use your whisk or fork to gently sift the dry ingredients together a little bit (so that the baking powder is integrated into the flour and isn't clumpy). Add milk and mix all ingredients together until just combined. Cook each pancake 2-3 minutes per side, depending on your preferred level of doneness. Serve with maple syrup or fruit and fresh whipped cream. (For a delicious variation on these pancakes we like to make in the fall, try these!)

*Oddly enough, this is the one recipe in the world where I personally prefer white flour to wheat—it's something about the flavor and texture of the pancakes. However, they're also delicious with wheat flour.

Grilled Lemon Chicken with Rosemary or Coriander

Prep time: Easy
Source: Adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe (I think)

Looking through my list of favorite recipes today, I couldn't believe that this one was somehow missing from my blog! This is one of our go-to methods for quick, easy grilled chicken, either to eat as an entrée with lots of yummy sides, or to use over pasta or in stir-fry. The original recipe used rosemary as the seasoning, but last year I also found a nearly identical recipe that used coriander. Both are delicious, and I alternate between the two depending on which sounds best!

Chicken breasts, thawed
Olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
Black pepper
Rosemary or ground coriander

Preheat a skillet or grilling pan on your stove over medium heat (if your stove tends to cook low, try medium-high), for 5-10 minutes or until it's quite hot. (To test it, put your hand over the pan—if there's enough heat rising from the pan that it's uncomfortable to keep your hand two or three inches above it, then it's ready.) 

Pat chicken dry with paper towels. If desired, you can butterfly the breasts to make them thinner (I do this sometimes when I end up with fairly thick ones). Brush both sides of breasts with olive oil. Sprinkle tops of breasts with salt, pepper, and rosemary or coriander; place the unseasoned side down on the preheated pan (it will sizzle and smoke a bit). Cook 5-10 minutes on first side, depending on the thickness of your chicken and how thoroughly it was thawed. You'll know it's done when the edges have turned white and only a little bit of pink is left in the middle of the top. Using kitchen tongs, flip chicken so that the seasoned side is down and cook for 4-5 minutes on second side.

Remove chicken from pan and place on a clean plate. Drizzle with lemon juice and tent with foil (this helps keep the chicken deliciously moist and tender, and finishes up the last few minutes of the cooking process). Let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Simple Peanut Butter Cookies, Two Ways (Gluten-Free and Low Sugar)

Prep time: Very easy
Source: Adapted from my friend Sacha

I love peanut butter, and I LOVE peanut butter cookies! This recipe, which originally has only 3 ingredients and is gluten free, is super simple. Because I don't do well with much sugar, I prefer to sub half of the sugar for flour instead and get a less-sweet and more-healthy cookie. Each cookie in my version of the recipe has roughly 7 grams of sugar—pretty good for a sweet treat!

Version One: Gluten Free, 3-Ingredient PB Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg

Preheat oven to 350. Grease cookie sheet, or line with parchment paper. Combine all ingredients in bowl until thoroughly mixed. Form into golf-ball(ish) sized balls and press onto cookie sheet using tines of fork. Bake 8-9 minutes. Cookies will be VERY soft and fall apart easily when they first come out, so allow them to cool on the cookie sheet (placed on a cooling rack or unheated stove coil) for several minutes before removing.

Version Two: 7-gram, 4-Ingredient PB Cookies

1 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup wheat flour
1 egg

Follow directions for above recipe.

Rosemary-Balsamic Roast Chicken

Prep time: Easy-medium
Source: My own brain! :)

For the last few years, I've been making and freezing chicken stock regularly. In the beginning, I did it with a rotisserie chicken, but about a year ago I got brave and decided to start roasting my own chicken instead. Now I roast a chicken at least once a month. We eat the chicken with a few sides for dinner one night and then I remove the rest of the meat and store it in the fridge for later meals (soups, pot pies, stir fries, pasta dishes, etc.) and use the carcass to make 5-6 quarts of stock. Lately, I've just been taking the veggies I used to stuff the chicken for roasting and using those to flavor the stock as well—simple, easy, and cheap!

1 whole chicken, cleaned and dried (I usually rinse mine and then set it on a paper-towel lined plate in the fridge for several hours; the dehumidifying action of the fridge helps dry it very nicely!)
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 T balsamic vinegar
1-2 T kosher salt
1 t black pepper
1 T rosemary, fresh or dried
Whatever root veggies you have on hand (carrots, celery, onions, garlic, potatoes, etc.—I typically do one carrot, about 1/3 of an onion, 2-4 cloves of garlic, and the leafy parts of a few celery stalks)

Preheat oven to 475. Prepare a roasting pan with rack for the chicken. Prepare veggies however you need to (I typically peel the carrots and potatoes if I'm using, and roughly chop everything so that it will fit into the chicken cavity). Set aside.

In regular-sized bowl, mix butter, vinegar, and spices together until combine (it will take a little coaxing to get the butter and vinegar into a smooth paste). Use your fingers (I always wear gloves for this part) to thoroughly coat chicken in butter mixture; you can loosen the skin and rub it underneath, but I haven't found that it makes a ton of difference and so I usually just do everything over the skin. Be sure to coat the inside of the cavity, as well. Stuff veggies into cavity. If your chicken's drumsticks have a tendency to fall away from the rest of the bird, either truss them together with baker's twine or (my preference) use a knife to cut a small hole in the chicken skin near the tip of the drumstick, and then insert the round end of the drumstick into that hole to hold the legs close to the bird (so they don't cook faster than the rest). Place chicken breast side down on roasting rack. Reduce oven heat to 375 and place bird in oven.

The size of your bird will determine the cooking time—a good rule of thumb is 20 minutes per pound, though I sometimes have to do a bit more. I usually cook mine for about 2 hours and they are always 4-5 lb birds. About halfway through your cooking time, turn the chicken breast-side up—I do this (awkwardly!) with 2 wooden spoons. Cooking it this way helps keep the breast meat tender and moist without basting.

To check for doneness, make a small cut in one of the legs and press with the edge of the knife to see if the juices run clear. (I also do this in the breast as well, since for some reason my chicken legs sometimes cook before the breasts.) 

When juices are clear, remove pan from oven and tent chicken with foil for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Black Bean Soup

Prep time: Easy

You may be able to tell from reading this blog, but I really like soup! This is another favorite we've made a lot over the last year or two.

About 1 T EVOO
4 cloves garlic, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1-2 celery ribs, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 cans black beans (or about 6 cups home-cooked beans), drained and rinsed
1 large anaheim pepper or 1/2 bell pepper, diced
4 cups beef or chicken broth (I never seem to have beef on hand so I usually use all or part chicken)
1 t kosher salt
1/8 t black pepper
1/8-1/2 t chili powder, depending on how strong your chili powder is and how spicy you like things
1/4 t cumin
1/2 t dried oregano
1 bay leaf if you have them

In a large saucepan or stock pot, saute onions, carrots, garlic, and celery for a few minutes (until onions are translucent garlic is browning). Add beans, anaheim or bell peppers, broth, and spices. Simmer (without a lid) for 30-60 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Remove bay leaf (if you happened to not have run out of them, which I always do!) and purée soup with stick blender or in batches in regular blender. Squeeze in the juice of one lime (or add about 1 T bottled lime juice). Top with chips, cheese, sour cream, and more lime juice, if desired. 

Cauliflower Soup

Prep time: Easy (about the same as most soups)
Source: Adapted from The Pioneer Woman

Mahon is not a fan of cauliflower and gives me MAJOR grief for making this soup, but even he likes it once it's done! It's especially delicious with a little cheddar cheese mixed in. However, I have been having major problems with large amounts of dairy—especially cheese—lately, and so I ate it without any garnishes and it was still quite yummy. (Because of my dairy issues, I served the soup with the sour cream as a garnish rather than as part of the body of the soup, like the original recipe indicates.) I streamlined the original recipe a bit because I thought it came together in a really odd way, and tweaked a few of the proportions. I also decided after the last time that I made it that it needed a longer simmering time so that the cauliflower was softer and less grainy after the soup was puréed.

1/4 cup butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 whole carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, diced
1/4 cup flour
1 head cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 T fresh parsley (or about 1 tsp dried), chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup half-and-half (or 1/4 cup each cream and milk)
1-2 tsp salt (or more) to taste
Shake of pepper

In medium saucepan, melt butter and saute onions, carrot, garlic, and celery for a few minutes or until onions begin to look translucent. Add flour and cook until the flour/butter mixture is golden and bubbly. Slowly add chicken stock, stirring as you go until everything is integrated. Add cauliflower, parsley, and salt (err on the lower side for now) and bring to a boil. Once the soup is boiling, reduce heat and simmer for about 20-40 minutes or until cauliflower is fairly tender. Add milk and half-and-half and simmer for another 10-20 minutes (don't allow the soup to boil), until cauliflower is very tender and all ingredients are heated through. Purée soup using a stick blender, or in batches in a regular blender. Add more salt if needed and a shake of black pepper. Serve garnished with sour cream and cheddar cheese, if desired.

Cindy's Imitation Maple Syrup

Prep time: Very easy, but be sure to start it before you start your pancakes/waffles/whatever you're putting the syrup on so that it has a little time to simmer.
Source: Adapted from a classic Ray family recipe!

I have always been a syrup snob. Ever since I was a little girl, I have REALLY hated regular imitation maple syrup. It's nasty stuff! I grew up with my dad's homemade syrup and it will always be my favorite. Lately I've been playing with the recipe a little to see if I could cut down on the sugar a bit, and have ended up loving my end result even better than the original recipe! It's by no means a health food, since it's still highly concentrated sugar, but hey—it's at least a little better. The dash of salt gives it a rich and complex flavor, too.

1 1/2 cups white or brown sugar (brown has a stronger flavor)
1 T cornstarch
A dash of salt (about 1/8 tsp)
1 cup water
1/2 t imitation maple flavoring
1/2 t vanilla flavoring

In a small saucepan, thoroughly mix sugar, salt, and cornstarch together. Add water and bring to a boil on the stove. Once the syrup is boiling, reduce heat to medium-low and allow to simmer until you're done making your pancakes (or whatever you're going to put the syrup on!)—about 10-20 minutes. Just before serving, remove from heat and add flavor extracts. Stores great in fridge (and also gets thicker as it cools).


Prep time: Medium
Source: Our Best Bites

I've really neglected this blog for the last year. Because there are a LOT of recipes we use and love that haven't made it up here, I'm resolving over the next little while to get this blog back up to date! I'm also going to try to be less of a slacker about taking pictures of stuff before we gobble it all up. We'll see how that goes!

We started using this crepe recipe a year or two ago and it is, hands-down, one of our favorite recipes. Our #1 favorite way to prepare them is layering several crepes together sandwiched with butter and maple syrup... it's to die for! We also love them with fruit and cream cheese or Greek yogurt, berry syrup, homemade whipped cream, and stewed apples (or any combination of the above—drizzling a little maple syrup over stewed apples with whipped cream is pretty divine!).

2 eggs
2 T canola oil
3 T sugar (or, if using wheat flour, honey; leave this out if you're making savory crepes)
1 C flour (it's equally great with white or whole-wheat)
About 1/8 tsp salt
About 1 1/3 cups milk

Combine eggs, oil, sugar/honey, and salt in blender and pulse to combine. Leave the blender running on low and alternate adding milk and flour. (If you're using a top-motor blender, like we now are, you'll have to add everything together and then open it up again to scrape the flour off the sides.) If any flour clings to the sides, scrape it down with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Like many recipes, the exact ratio of flour to milk can be a little fickle and depend on the weather/your ingredients/what your astrological sign happens to be doing at the moment. You're looking for a batter that is quite runny and easily pourable (not at all like pancake batter).

Pre-heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat on the stove and grease with butter (be sure to get part of the sides, as the crepes will often creep up the sides as they cook!). When pan is warm (you want the butter to sizzle, but not immediately turn brown), pour a small amount of batter into the pan. We use small omelet-sized pans to make ours, and pour only a silver-dollar sized amount of batter or less into the pan. (Experiment a little til you find the right amount!) Quickly use your wrist to swirl the batter in the pan until it has evenly and thinly coated the bottom (and bottom of the sides) of your pan. Cook until the crepe starts to brown around the edges and most of the center is no longer liquid (usually 30-60 seconds).

Although we've gotten pretty good at making crepes and can make them quickly and beautifully now, neither of us has ever been able to master either flipping them with the pan (HA) or using only one utensil to flip them. Instead, we take a heat-safe rubber spatula (the kind you use to get the last of the cake batter from your bowl) and gently work it around the edges of the crepe as soon as they begin to brown. Then, even more gently (thin crepes are pretty fragile—but totally worth it!), we take a regular flipping spatula and use that to flip the crepe to its other side.

Cook about 15-30 seconds on the second side and then gently flip finished crepe off onto a plate. Voila! You're now a master French chef! (Or something like that.)