Monday, October 31, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup

We went trick or treating in the hood last night, but it's still Halloween tonight, so the kids had Mummy Dogs for dinner.  They are just hot dogs cut in half and wrapped in crescent roll strips.  Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.  My Mummy Dogs are kind of struggling, but I'm sure yours will be perfect.

John and I, however, had Roasted Butternut Squash and Apple Soup.   It's got roasted garlic in it! Yummm.

1 butternut squash
1 head garlic
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Fuji apple, chopped
4 cups chicken stock
1/2-3/4 cup skim milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
shredded cheddar cheese
diced apple
fresh thyme

Cut squash down the center and remove seeds.  Drizzle squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast skin side up at 400 for 30 minutes, or until squash is soft.  When the squash is cool, the skin will just pull off.
Cut the top off a head of garlic.  Add olive oil and salt and pepper and wrap in foil.  Roast garlic in the oven with the squash. 
(I did all the roasting earlier in the day and finished the rest of the steps right before dinner.)
Saute onion and apple in olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add chicken stock and deglaze the pan and bring it to a boil.   Add squash and roasted garlic cloves to the pot (just squeeze the garlic to remove the roasted cloves) and simmer for 10 minutes, or longer if you have time.  Next puree the soup with an immersion blender (or you can use a food processor) until smooth.  Add skim milk to thin the soup to desired consistency.  Last, add 1/4 cup heavy cream, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls and top with chopped apples, shredded cheddar cheese, and fresh thyme. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Easy Mexican Layer Dip

This is just a throw-together dip, and everything was store bought, but you can do a little number with the sour cream to make it really Halloween-y and festive.  I took it to a Halloween party, and it was all gone by the end of the evening!  I'm still a little worried that someone ate the plastic spiders....

 Easy Mexican Layer Dip (from Pioneer Woman)

1 can refried beans
Tabasco Sauce, to taste
1 can diced green chilies
taco seasoning, to taste
3/4 cups grated cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 cup guacamole (homemade is better, but I used store bought for this)
1 cup pico de gallo (again, from the deli, but homemade is better)

Heat the refried beans in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add several dashes of Tabasco sauce and a small can of (undrained) diced green chilies. Stir well. Next, sprinkle a little bit of taco seasoning.
Spread the beans on the bottom of a serving dish.  Next, add the grated cheese.  Add the pico de gallo around the edge.  The next layer is the guacamole. To make the last layer like a spider web, pipe the sour cream in a swirl patter using a plastic bag (put the sour cream in a Ziploc and cut off the corner).  Run a toothpick or end of a fork from the center out to make the spider web.  Add some plastic spiders. Make sure nobody eats the spiders (I should have done that!).  Serve with tortilla chips.

Caramel Apples

This is a beginner from-scratch caramel apple recipe.  It's only slightly more difficult than melting store bought caramels.  But then again, given how much I hate going to Walmart, I'd say this recipe brought me significantly less stress than a trip to the store for caramels and was therefore much EASIER!

Anyway, melt store bought caramels and dip the apples or make this recipe;  they are both great.   Just make these before fall is over. Yum!  Oh, and you need a candy thermometer and some sort of stick for the apple.  You can also use a plastic fork in a pinch...

Caramel Apples

1 cup butter or margarine
2 cups light brown sugar
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1 pinch salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
washed and dried apples

In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine the butter, brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Heat to between 234 and 240 degrees F, also called soft ball stage.  I don't exactly know what that means.  I just use a candy thermometer.  Remove from the heat and stir in vanilla. Dip the apples in the caramel and then in whatever toppings you like.  I made walnuts with sea salt and m&m versions.   Put the apples in the refrigerator to harden before eating.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

PSY-Pumpkin Spice Yogurt with Maple Spice Granola

These days everybody's all runnin' around gettin' their PSLs from Starbucks.  So I had this idea to make PSY (Pumpkin Spice Yogurt).  Healthy and yum. 

I made a lot because I took it to the elementary school for a teachers' brunch.  You can adjust the recipe to make fewer servings or just store leftovers in the fridge. Don't add the granola until the last minute, though, or it might get soggy.

Pumpkin Spice Yogurt

32 oz container plain fat free Greek yogurt
1 15 oz can pumpkin
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice 
2  teaspoons vanilla
1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you like it, and I'd use Splenda brown sugar if I were making it for myself to cut calories)

Whisk all the ingredients together and serve with granola on top.

Maple Spice Granola 

4 cups oats (not quick cooking)
2 T brown sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup maple syrup (not pancake syrup)
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt 
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup craisins

Combine oats, nuts, brown sugar, salt, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix canola oil and maple syrup with vanilla in a large measuring cup and pour over dry ingredients.  Mix well and spread on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 300 degrees for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so until brown.  Let cool and then add craisins. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Monster Munch

I made Monster Munch for the teachers at our elementary school to snack on during parent/teacher conferences this week.  I was extremely glad to get it out of the house; it's so good I couldn't stop eating it!! 

Monster Munch
This recipe makes a lot.  You can adjust all the amounts to your tastes.  
1 package almond bark (this stuff tastes like white chocolate, but melts easily and perfectly)
3 bags Orville Redenbacher Tender White microwave popcorn (this is the best popcorn ever)
1 bag candy corn
2 cups dry roasted peanuts
1 package Reeses Pieces

Line 3 sheet pans with wax paper.  Pop popcorn.  Melt almond bark in microwave until smooth.    Add candy corn, peanuts, Reeses Pieces to the popcorn.  Pour chocolate over the popcorn, candy, and peanuts and stir until everything is coated.  You'll probably have to do 2-3 batches, depending on the size of your bowl.  Spread popcorn mixture onto the sheet pans and let cool.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala

The easy to delicious ratio on this dish is really low, I'll be honest with ya.  It took a long time to prep, dirtied my dutch oven AND the crock pot (I keep forgetting about those slow cooker liners sitting in my cabinet!), and had a lot of ingredients, including garam masala that required a trip to the natural foods store. was delicious! It was a great change of pace!

Slow Cooker Tikka Masala (from Tasty Kitchen, but originally here)
  • 9 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs (I used chicken breasts)
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Coriander
  • 1 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup Yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil 
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Large Onion, Peeled And Diced
  • 6 cloves Garlic, Peeled And Minced
  • 1 Tablespoon Kosher Salt
  • 3 Tablespoons Garam Masala
  • 1 piece Fresh Ginger, About 2-3 Inches, Peeled And Grated
  • 4 cups Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup Heavy Cream
  • Rice
  • Chopped Fresh Cilantro
Cut the boneless, skinless chicken  into 1- 1 1/2 inch pieces. Sprinkle the coriander, cumin and salt over the chicken, then stir in the yogurt until all the pieces are evenly coated. Cover lightly and let sit for 10 minutes before proceeding.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Raise the heat to medium high and quickly brown about 1/4 of the chicken. Transfer browned chicken to the slow cooker as it is finished, and repeat until the chicken is all in the slow-cooker.
Prepare the sauce. Return the pan to the heat and melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and kosher salt, then stir. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to lightly brown around the edges.
Stir in the garam masala and ginger and cook until fragrant (about 1 minute) before raising the heat to high and adding the crushed tomatoes and sugar. Stir well, scraping the caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan, and bring to a boil. Pour over the chicken in the slow-cooker.
Cover and cook on LOW for 5 hours, or until the chicken is very tender.
Use a fork or whisk to stir the cornstarch into the heavy cream until smooth. Pour into the slow-cooker and stir gently until the color is even. Replace the lid and let cook for 10 minutes or until bubbly around the edges.
Serve over hot rice, topped with a generous amount of chopped cilantro.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quinoa with Roasted Fall Vegetables and Pistachios

Quinoa. Pronounced KEEN-wah.  If you're not eating it yet, now is the time.  It's super healthy and finally readily available in regular grocery stores.  I like this recipe a lot.  And I'll bet the leftovers will be great tomorrow for lunch..

Quinoa with Roasted Fall Vegetables and Pistachios
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 butternut squash, seeds and skin removed
1 medium sized eggplant
2 cups crimini mushrooms
4 cloves garlic, whole
juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon dijon mustard (this just thickens the sauce a little, you can leave it out)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup pistachios
salt and pepper

Cut vegetables into bite sized pieces, place on a sheet pan, and drizzle with olive oil.  Add whole garlic cloves and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.  Toss everything together and roast at 450 for about 30 minutes, turning once.  Vegetables should be brown.

Prepare quinoa according to package directions:  bring quinoa to a boil, add a pinch of salt, lower heat to simmer, put a lid on it, and cook for 10-15 minutes. 

In a large bowl, mix lemon juice with mustard and add salt and pepper.  Whisk until combined and then whisk in about a tablespoon of olive oil.  Add quinoa and vegetables, then stir to combine. Add a few pistachios to the top when serving. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Tacos

Who doesn't like buffalo wings?  Well, besides me?  I don't like chicken wings at all, buffalo or any other style. But I do like boneless wings, aka cut up chicken breasts tossed in buffalo sauce.  This recipe is a healthy way to eat them.  For the kids, I just took some chicken out before I tossed it all in the sauce.  It would definitely have been too hot for them! 

1 pound chicken breasts, skinless, boneless, cut into 1 inch pieces 
1/3 cup flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon garlic powder 
1/3 cup buffalo wing sauce (Frank’s Buffalo Wing was what I used)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
flour tortillas

green onions

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

In a large bowl, combine cornstarch, flour, cayenne, and garlic powder. Season the chicken pieces with a little salt and pepper, then dredge in the flour mixture.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the Dutch oven and once it gets hot, add chicken and cook on both sides – about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Once the chicken is done, turn off the heat and throw in the buffalo wing sauce. Add a little bit of water if the sauce is too thick when it hits the hot pan.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Ginger and Cilantro Baked Tilapia

Between 4 year old birthday parties (can't believe my baby is 4!), volunteering for elementary school fall festivals, going to said festivals, and stomach flus, not much cookin' happened around here last week.  But we are all healthy for the moment and life is back to it's only slightly hectic pace, instead of the insane pace of last week.  I've got a lot of new recipes to try out this week!

Tonight was Ginger and Cilantro Baked Tilapia.  This recipe is most certainly a keeper! Very fresh tasting, and really quick.  I actually used about a 1/4 of the marinade (before it went on the fish) and blended it up with a little olive oil for a quick salad dressing. 

Ginger and Cilantro Baked Tilapia
serves 2
2 tilapia fillets
1 jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
3 garlic cloves
1 inch grated ginger (grate with a microplane)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
Scallions, chopped for garnish
Extra cilantro, to garnish
Heat the oven to 475ºF. Pat the fish dry and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in a glass baking dish.
In a blender, chop jalapeno and garlic.  Grate the ginger and add it.  Next, add the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and cilantro. Whir until blended. Pour the sauce over the fish, rubbing it in a little. Bake for about 8 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily and is cooked through.
Serve immediately over brown rice, garnished with scallions and cilantro.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Crock Pot Pinto Beans

These beans cook for 20 hours:  overnight and through the day until dinnertime.   It's a long time, but the prep time is less than 5 minutes.  Can't beat that, right?  They are so good this way; the beans are creamy but not mushy, and you can really taste the smokiness of the ham. 

Crock Pot Pintos

1 pound of dried pinto beans
1 ham hock/bone (from leftover ham from Tuesday)
1/2 onion, as a chunk so you can remove it later
2 whole cloves of garlic
8 cups of water
8 beef bouillon cubes (you could also use beef broth if you have a thing against bouillon)

Rinse the dry beans (check for rocks) in the morning the day before you want to eat them, cover with water, and let them soak throughout the day.  That night, rinse them again and put them in the crock pot with the remaining ingredients.  Make sure the water covers the beans by a couple of inches.  Cook on low all night and through the next day (about 20 hours).  Remove and discard the ham hock, onion and garlic.  Serve with shredded cheese, avocado, and a little fresh lime juice (sour cream, tomatoes, and green onions are all good on top, too).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ham and Cheese Frittata

This post should be subtitled: I was too exhausted to cook dinner because I spent the day at the pumpkin patch with 100 kindergarteners.  Wow, I don't know how teachers do it every day.  They certainly don't make enough for what they do!  

Ham and Cheese Frittata (serves 2)

1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
1/2 cup-1 cup chopped leftover ham
6 eggs (I use 3 whites and 3 whole eggs)
splash of skim milk
2 slices cheddar cheese
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Preheat broiler to high.  Saute onion in a drizzle of olive oil in a non stick pan until lightly browned.  Add ham and stir until ham is heated through, less than a minute.  Add eggs beaten with skim milk and stir for about a minute.  Let the frittata cook for about 3-4 minutes, or until eggs begin to set.  Add the cheddar cheese to the top, then put the entire pan under the broiler until browned and fluffy.   Add the chopped basil and Parmesan cheese and cut into wedges to serve. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mesclun Salad with Honeycrisp Apple Vinaigrette

Sandwiches made with leftover ham from last night and a big salad. That was dinner for us tonight.  By the way, mesclun is just a fancy word for the baby lettuce mix that is in every grocery store these days.

Mesclun Salad with Honeycrisp Apple Vinaigrette

1 bag mesclun salad mix
1 honeycrisp apple, chopped
1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/4 cup chopped pecans

2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 tablespoons honey (to taste)
salt and pepper

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a jar and shake.  Pour over salad greens and toss.  Top with apples, goat cheese, and pecans.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Old Fashioned Fried Potatoes

Tonight's dinner was Baked Ham and Old Fashioned Fried Potatoes.  I had never cooked fried potatoes before tonight, but growing up in Arkansas, I've of course eaten them many times.  Mine did not come out perfectly, but boy, they were good! I think the key is not to mess with them too much and a heavy pan (I don't have a cast iron skillet, but that's what I imagine would be best). 

Old Fashioned Fried Potatoes

4-5 large potatoes
canola or vegetable oil to coat the bottom of the pan
1/2 large vidalia onion, choppped
salt and pepper

Peel the potatoes (if you like to do that, go for it, if not, skip it) and slice into 1/2 inch slices.   Cut the big slices in half.  Heat heavy skillet to medium high and add oil.  Add the potatoes and toss them around in the oil.  Add salt and pepper and then the onion on top, but don't stir.  Put the lid on halfway, and then leave it alone for a few minutes until the potatoes are brown on the bottom.  Take the lid off, stir, and then continue cooking and stirring occasionally until the potatoes are as brown as you like. 

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

Something about a rainy, fall day makes me want something pumpkin.  Since I was still SWEATING profusely from hot yoga this morning, a pumpkin spice coffee sounded pretty awful.  This baked pumpkin oatmeal was perfect.

Baked Pumpkin Oatmeal

1/2 cup oats
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
sweetener to taste... I used 1 tsp splenda.  You can use truvia, sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, whatever.
1/4 cup canned pumpkin
1/4 cup skim milk
1/8 tsp salt
raisins, walnuts, brown sugar for the top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine raw oats, spices, pumpkin, and milk. Pour into a ramekin. Cook for 20 minutes.  Turn up the oven to broil, and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the top is browned and crusty.  Top with brown sugar, walnuts, raisins, craisins...
Serves one.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Healthy Eating Soapbox and Spicy Garlic Spinach

For me, the key to staying healthy, is a combination of not eating too much and daily exercise.  If you struggle with healthy eating or weight loss I would suggest reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food.  That book completely changed the way I see food and eating.  He says you should eat real food, not processed food-like substances (I always think of Veleveeta) and not too much of it.   Nothing is really off limits and he neither condones nor condemns being a vegetarian or vegan.  He says you should eat chocolate cake if you want it, but don't eat Little Debbies.  Get up off the couch and make a cake from flour, sugar, cocoa, and eggs.  Having to make from scratch chocolate chip cookies will make you think about how badly you want cookies!  And for exercise, I say do the best you can.  I don't always exercise every day.  I do what I can when I can; some weeks I do great, and sometimes I don't...It's about moderation in everything...

Enough of my soapbox, right?  We had tenderloin steaks for dinner (the same recipe from a few weeks ago minus the butter).  The Baby and Beta split a steak and I spit one with Alpha (John had his own).  When you cut any meat and fan it out like this, it tricks your eye into thinking you're eating more than you are.   So really, I only ate a couple of ounces of steak and most of my plate was spinach and sweet potatoes.

Spicy Garlic Spinach

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 big bag of baby spinach, more or less is fine
1 tablespoon olive oil
big pinch of red pepper flakes (I knew my kids wouldn't touch it, so I went heavy on the pepper)

Heat olive oil in a skillet until hot.  Add the garlic and saute for about a minute, but don't let it brown.  Add the red pepper flakes and then the spinach.  Toss spinach until it wilts and then add salt. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Garlic Lemon Roasted Cauliflower

We try to eat locally as much as we can, but you know how expensive (not to mention time consuming) it is to buy fruits and veggies from local farmers. So in reality, we eat regionally with produce mostly from Walmart, and I buy in season as much as possible.  

Since fall is finally upon us, crunchy apples, cranberries, and pumpkins have replaced juicy red tomatoes, watermelon, and basil.  Yellow squash is over for the summer, as are strawberries and fresh white corn.  Kale, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and butternut squash are in the store this time of year, so that's what we eat!  And we've always got carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower....

Tonight John and I had Lemon Pepper Tilapia, Garlic Lemon Roasted Cauliflower, and Spinach Salad with Red Peppers.  The kids ate fast food for a school fundraiser (good parenting, huh?). I'll tell you about the fish and salad later this week.  Here's how I did the cauliflower:

Garlic Lemon Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower
olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
zest and juice of one lemon

After washing and drying the cauliflower, cut it into small pieces.  You can spend time separating each floret to make it beautiful, or you can just chop it up into similar sized pieces (like I did).

Add 2-3 cloves of minced garlic, the zest of a lemon, juice of half the lemon, then drizzle with olive oil to coat, and toss it all together.

Cook at 450 for 20-25 minutes.  When it comes out of the oven, squeeze the other half of the lemon over the cauliflower.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Autumn Apple Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

So I was starting dinner and when I looked in the fridge for the chicken, it wasn't there.  Guess where I found it? Yep, in the car.  In the 90 degree car where it had been for about 6 hours.  Um, not eatin' that. I also found the skirt steak for tomorrow night in the same bag I forgot to bring in...So I called an audible (like that football reference? I'm trying hard this year to like football) and we had ham and cheese sandwiches instead of chicken, along with this delicious Apple Autumn Salad with Maple Vinaigrette. 

Autumn Apple Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

For 2 large salads; adjust the amounts to your taste 

4 cups arugula/spinach blend
1 Honeycrisp apple, cut into slices (Have you tried the Honeycrisp apples? They are the best!)
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
4 tablespoons olive oil
big pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a glass jar with a lid, combine the maple syrup, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Put on the lid and shake well to combine.  Add the olive oil and shake well again.  Drizzle over salad greens tossed with apples, walnuts, dried cranberries, and goat cheese.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Bacon and Egg Sandwich

This sandwich is kind of like breakfast for dinner, so it was excellent.  And John made it, which made it even better.  We left off the cheese and used egg whites to make it a little healthier. Bacon tastes gooood. Name that movie.