Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Minestrone Soup & Speedy Wheat Biscuits

I don't know if I've ever talked about my job on this blog, but after some of the recipes on here you'll probably never believe it when I tell you what I do...I'm a Wellness Specialist for an Independent Wellness Company that does Employee Wellness Programs for various businesses and corporations. I absolutely love it!!! But I also absolutely love to eat, and I sometimes feel a little bit like a hypocrite when I eat/cook junk food. Don't worry though, that doesn't bother me enough to stop. Anyway, a little while ago at work I was asked to do a Lunch & Learn with one of my coworkers about healthy cooking substitutions. We talked a lot about all of that wonderful stuff, and then we made some healthy recipes (or should I say, healthier than most) for them to sample. This delicious minestrone soup, these fabulous biscuits, and a breakfast cookie I've made before all made it on to the menu. They were all a big hit, too! Can I just say thank heavens for the Food Network?! It is always there when I need them, via TV, internet, or magazine (yes I just subscribed, and am loving it!). So yeah, I hope you enjoy these healthier recipes just as much as our audience did!
Minestrone Soup
From Robin Miller of the Food Network
3 c. low sodium chicken broth
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes (I used Italian style)
1 can white beans (Great Northern), drained and rinsed
2 carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 c. onion, chopped
1 medium zucchini, chopped
2 c. fresh spinach, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried sage
2 bay leaves
2 c. cooked ditalini pasta
In a slow cooker, combine broth, tomatoes, beans, carrots, celery, onion, thyme, sage, bay leaves, & 1/2 tsp salt & pepper. Cook on LOW 6-8 hours, or HIGH 3-4 hours. 30 minutes before soup is done, add pasta, zucchini, & spinach. Cover & cook 30 more minutes. Remove bay leaves & season to taste.

Wheat Biscuits
From the Food Network

1 c. wheat flour
1 c. white flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 stick unsalted butter, cold, cut into pieces
1 cup buttermilk, cold
Whisk dry ingredients. Cut in butter until resembles coarse meal. Add buttermilk, stirring until moistened. Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface & knead lightly 4-5 times. Pat dough out to 1 inch thickness. Cut with biscuit cutter (I used a small cup) & place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees 12-14 minutes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

MJ's Peach Strawberry Crisp

Two summers ago I worked at a spa as a receptionist. It was just kind of something to pass the time and earn some money while I was waiting for my last Fall semester to roll around, but it was pretty sweet because I got great discounts on services and received massages, body treatments, and pedicures as part of my training for the job...awesome, I know! But the best part of the whole experience was meeting two girls that have come to be some of my very best friends: RJ and MJ. Those are just their initials, and that's what I'm going to call them even though it makes them sound like truck drivers haha! I like to think that we're somewhat like the 3 Musketeers in our own right. You know that whole "all for one, and one for all" thing they had going - I feel like we've got that going for us, too. Anyway, I quit the spa after not very long at all, and now neither of them work there either. Now, instead of seeing each other at work, we wake up at the mother-loving buttcrack of dawn twice a week to work out together, get together for game nights, Girls Nights Out, and the occasional chick-flick & junk food binge Girls Night In. I love these girls guts, and I know I didn't really need to give you the whole story of how we came to be, but believe me, that was definitely not the whole story - you got the seriously condensed version.
Anyway, MJ gave me this delicious recipe, and I guess I just got a little sidetracked in telling you about it...she originally made this as a rhubarb crisp, but ran out of rhubarb and tried peaches, which she liked even better. I had some blueberries that I added, too, and they were a great addition! It is officially Autumn, so I hope you enjoy this delicious Fall dessert!

Peach Strawberry Crisp
From Michaela Johnson
about 4 cups of sliced peaches
1/2 - 1 Tbsp Tapioca minute pudding crystals
chopped strawberries
Juice (apple, cranberry, grape, whatever you've got!)
1 c. rolled oats
1 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Cut in 1 cube softened butter
Put cut up peaches on bottom of 8x8 pan. Pour a little juice over the peaches. Sprinkle tapioca mix over peches so it is evenly covered. Then add strawberries. You can just put as many strawberries as you want on it. I just put enough to give it color and cover up most of the peaches. Then add the topping. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. You can tell it's done when the topping is crispy! serve with ice cream, if desired.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

spinach artichoke whole-wheat penne & withdrawals

Hello? Is anybody still out there? I've totally neglected my blog this past week because my work/life schedule has been sooooo crazy-busy! I am a Wellness Specialist with an employee wellness company, and we started our annual fitness testing for all the employees this week. I also signed up for an assignment to do a "Lunch & Learn" about healthy cooking substitutions which consumed MUCHO time, I covered a shift for someone, and my volleyball league started, so things have really been all over the place...but in a good way haha. I pretty much had to choose between sleep and blogging, and sleep clearly won. Although I've been tired a lot, so who knows if all these blogging withdrawals have been worth it?! Anyway, I'm back, and I hope some of you will come back with me!
So, this recipe's been in the pipeline for a little while - there was clearly no time for cooking this week. It didn't take long to make at all, which means I probably could have made it this week if I'd really wanted to. I have to admit that I'd never made something of this same green brightness before, so I was a little bit concerned, but the first bite wiped out any fear or reservation I may have had. It was spectacular!!! Dick loved it, too, of course. Another home run by the lovely, talented, and I'm not gonna lie I think she's a little high strung, miss Rachael Ray. It may very well be one of her infamous 30-minute meals, but I wouldn't know because I just found it online when I was searching for spinach recipes. I bought this 3 1/2 lb bag of spinach at Costco thinking oh, we'll definitely eat that, piece of cake. But let me just tell you, 3 1/2 lbs of spinach is pretty deceiving in a bag because that is a lot of freaking spinach!
Anywho, hope you like this one just as much as we did.
Spinach Artichoke whole-wheat Penne
From Rachael Ray of the Food Network

1 pound whole-wheat penne pasta
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 (15 oz) can or 1 (10 oz) box frozen artichoke hearts, drained & quartered
1 small bundle farm fresh spinach, stems trimmed
1 shallot, peeled & roughly chopped
1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
a handful of fresh mint leaves
a handful lightly toasted slivered almonds
kosher salt and black pepper
1 large clove garlic, peeled & minced or grated
a handful grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions, until al dente. Drain and reserve about 1 cup of cooking water.
Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in medium non-stick skillet. Add artichokes to heat through & lightly brown at edges.
In bowl of food processor, add shallot, chicken stock, spinach leaves, mint, almonds, garlic & salt & pepper, to taste. Turn processor on and add about 2 Tbsp olive oil.
Scrape the spinach pesto into the artichoke pan & loosely cover with foil (I used a lid). Bring mixture to simmer over low to med-low heat and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the reserved pasta cooking water, the pasta & the cheese. Toss to coat the pasta with the sauce and heat for 1 minute. Transfer to serving bowl or platter, season with salt & pepper to taste, and serve.

Friday, September 18, 2009

brown sugar & bacon baked beans

So, I'd never been a really big fan of baked beans - well, I guess I should say Pork & Beans out of a can, because that's all I'd ever had until I tried this recipe. Then, one night shortly after Dick and I got married, he magnified my dislike for them about tenfold (but I'll give him credit for having the very best of intentions). I was late coming home from work, so he decided he'd surprise me by making dinner. He "remembered" this casserole his mom used to make when he was just a tyke, so he tried his hand at making it (the quotations around the word remembered are there because I seriously think he made this one up). Long story short, the Pork & Beans casserole of his childhood dreams was disastrous, and I don't believe for one second that my mother-in-law ever made such a hideous thing. It was pretty much a can of Pork & Beans with a tortilla on top of it, then another can of Pork and Beans with another tortilla on top of that, and so on...Oh, did I mention the little drops of ketchup that were dispersed throughout the "dish"? Like I said, his heart was so in the right place, but I'm pretty sure I took one bite and that was it. I love you, baby, you know I do!!!

These baked beans, on the other hand, are de-vine! I took them to a Super Bowl party at the beginning of the year, and they were a HUGE hit. In no way do they resemble those pale, soggy, watery, nasty, I can't even keep talking about them canned you-know-what. No, these are rich, savory, flavorful & perfect! The recipe makes a lot, so you can either feed them to a crowd, or have them for lunch & dinner the next day - they are great as leftovers!

Brown Sugar & Bacon Baked Beans
1/2 to 1 lb bacon
1 large onion, chopped
3 15 oz cans pinto beans
1/2 c. ketchup
1/2 c. BBQ sauce
2 Tbsp mustard
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. vinegar
1 tsp. salt
preheat oven to 350. in large skillet, fry bacon until almost crispy. pour off most fat. add onion & continue to fry for 5 min. add in all ingredients & mix well. pour into 2 qt. dish or 9x13 pan. bake, covered w/ lid or foil 20 min. remove foil and bake 30 min. longer.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

disappearing chocolate zucchini bread

Okay, so I've made this bread twice now, and both times I've managed to get pictures of it in the pan, but have had zero luck snapping a shot of a slice. You may wonder why, but after you taste it you'll completely understand. Is this the best bread I've ever had? Why, yes, I think it is! Seriously, if you like chocolate at all you are going to just be on cloud 9 the instant it touches your taste buds. And then, when you close your mouth and start to chew, your eyes are going to get really big and then kind of roll into the back of your head as that delicious yummy noise (you know the one, its kind of a moan/sigh) just escapes your mouth, past all the chocolaty goodness that is this bread. The term "eat your heart out" was made for foods like this! My suggestion: only let it cool a few minutes; and have a big glass of milk on hand. Your life just got a whole loaf of chocolate zucchini HEAVEN better. Don't thank me, just enjoy.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread
From the Closet Cook

What is it w/ my breads sticking to my pan?!

1 c. zucchini, grated
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. oil
1/2 c. vanilla yogurt
1 egg
1 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1/2 c. choc chips
1/2 c. walnuts, chopped
Mix zucchini, sugar, oil, yogurt, & egg.
Mix flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa, cinnamon in another bowl.
Mix wet & dry ingredients.
Mix in nuts & chocolate chips.
Pour batter in greased 5 x 9 loaf pan.
bake in preheated 350 degree oven until toothpick comes out of center clean, ~50 minutes.

Monday, September 14, 2009

apple & ham grilled cheese w/ roasted red onion mayo

If you've read this blog at all, you know how I love cheese. And I do mean love, I'm not just exaggerating. Which is why I had to make this recipe - I'd never had a grilled cheese dressed up at all, so this seriously took my breath away! I first tried this one last year, and since then, we've pretty much always do our grilled cheese with apples and sliced meat if we have them. The red onion mayo only gets made if we're feeling really fancy, or if we've been working out religiously haha it's totally worth it, though!!! I hope you other cheese lovers enjoy this sandwich (it's more of an experience, really!) as much as I do.
apple & ham grilled cheese
with roasted red onion mayo
adapted from Paula Deen of the Food Network

(makes 2 sandwiches)
4 slices whole grain bread
1 granny smith apple, thinly sliced
4-6 pieces ham, thinly sliced (I used packaged deli meat)
4 pieces sharp cheddar cheese, thickly sliced
red onion may (recipe follows)
4 Tbsp butter or margarine spread
Spread 1-2 Tbsp red onion mayo on two pieces of bread. Place two slices of apple on one piece, then layer two pieces of cheese, and 2-3 pieces of ham on top. Cover with the other slice of bread, mayo side down. Spread 1 Tbsp butter on top side of bread. Put the sandwich butter side down in a pan over medium heat. Now spread the top piece of bread with 1 Tbsp of butter and cover with a lid. When the bottom piece of bread is between golden and dark brown, use a spatula to carefully turn the sandwich over and toast the top piece of bread. Remove from pan when bread is between golden and dark brown (or however you like your grilled cheese). Repeat steps to make other sandwich.

red onion mayo
1 medium red onion
2 tsp olive oil
salt and pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
preheat oven to 375 degrees. on a baking sheet, toss red onion, olive oil, and salt & pepper. roast 25 minutes, or until onion is very soft. remove & let cool. transfer to food processor & buzz til finely chopped. add mayo & pulse until smooth & combined. Store in fridge.

Friday, September 11, 2009

blue cheese-stuffed turkey burger

I don't know about you, but I am a sucker for blue cheese! When I was little, I remember thinking my mom was definitely going to get sick if she kept eating moldy cheese, but now that I'm older and wiser and better understand the more sophisticated things of the world, I can't get enough of it!!! The night I made these, it was late & it had been a long day so I just made them in a pan on the stove rather than bothering with the grill. We didn't get the whole BBQ experience, but WHO CARES?! The blue cheese was still oozing out of them, and I still used my dad's famous burger technique of splashing just a little bit of Worcestershire sauce on the burgers a few minutes before they were ready. If you like blue cheese, you're going to love this one! It's definitely at the top of my list of "best burgers!"
Blue cheese-stuffed turkey burgers
adapted from Robin Miller's on the Food Network

Ingredients (makes 2 burgers)
1 lb ground turkey
1 tsp poultry seasoning, or seasoning of choice
blue cheese crumbles
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
bbq sauce
2 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
In a large bowl, sprinkle seasoning over ground turkey and mix thoroughly.
Separate turkey into 4 balls of equal size & flatten into patties.
In the center of 2 patties, place desired amount of blue cheese crumbles (2-3 Tbsp). Then cover each with one of the remaining patties and press the edges together to seal the cheese in.
In a medium pan, over med-high heat, cook the burgers ~4 or 5 minutes per side, or until cooked through.
With about 3 minutes left to cook, splash 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce on each of the burgers.
Remove from pan & serve on toasted buns. Top with bbq sauce, lettuce, tomato & onion.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Remember the buffalo wings

Yes, it's that time season! Now, I'm not really a big fan of the game of football. I always had a blast at my high school's football games (go Falcons!), and I'll watch the Super Bowl every year (mostly for the delicious spread of food that is involved - and the commercials), but my real connection to football is the movie Remember the Titans. This is my all-time favorite movie. I've seriously probably seen it over 50 times, and Dick refuses to watch it with me because I know all of the lines and will say them along with the the characters. Is there a better story of overcoming the odds and achieving victory, brotherhood, and friendship through sport? No, there is not. Please don't argue this one with me, it is my blog, after all. hahaha

So, in honor of this fine fall sport I decided to try a recipe that's a must-have at every tailgating or Monday Night Football party: boneless buffalo wings. I also found a blue cheese yogurt dip recipe to go with them that I highly recommend (thank you, Bobby Flay!). So, if you're going to a game, take some wings to share! And if you're not going to a game, pop in the Titans and enjoy!

Boneless Buffalo Wings


3 Tbsp nonfat buttermilk
3 Tbsp hot pepper sauce
3 Tbsp distilled white wine vinegar (I used apple cider & it tasted great!)
2 lbs chicken tenders
6 Tbsp whole wheat flour
6 Tbsp cornmeal
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 c. peeled carrot sticks
2 c. celery sticks

whisk buttermilk, 2 Tbsp hot pepper sauce, & 2 Tbsp vinegar in a large bowl until combined. Add chicken; toss to coat. Transfer to the refrigerator and let marinate for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, whisk flour & cornmeal in a shallow dish. whisk the remaining hot sauce and vinegar in a small bowl.
remove the chicken from the marinade and roll in the flour mixture until evenly coated. Discard remaining marinade & flour mixture. Sprinkle both sides with cayenne.
Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over med-high heat. Add half the chicken, place each in a little oil. Cook until golden brown & cooked through, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer to serving platter. Repeat with the remaining 1 Tbsp oil & chicken, reducing the heat if necessary. Transfer to the platter. Drizzle the chicken with the reserved hot sauce mixture. Serve with carrots, celery & blue cheese dip.

Blue Cheese Yogurt Dip
from Bobby Flay

1 pint thick Greek yogurt
3/4 c. blue cheese, crumbled
2 Tbsp finely chopped red onion
3 Tbsp finely sliced scallions
salt and fresh ground pepper

combine all ingredients & season with salt and pepper. cover & refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

SWEET roasted acorn squash

I don't ever remember eating this kind of squash growing up - my mom's squash of choice was usually banana squash (which I loooove!). But when I saw Sunny Anderson make this one on her show 'Cooking For Real' my mouth immediately started watering, and I've been watching for them to go on sale ever since! -Little side note: the Sunny Anderson actually left me a comment on my post including her recipe for hasselback potatoes awhile ago! I cannot tell you how stoked I was (my freak was freaked, to say the very least!!!). I was and still am star-struck! It was pretty much the most exciting thing that's happened in my adult life, for sure. I felt a little weird bringing lots of attention to it at the time, but thinking about it now, I don't really care - it kind of made my whole year, and definitely made this whole cooking blog experience that much more exciting and meaningful to me! So, there you go - Not only is this my new fave squash because it's rico (just found out that means "rich" or "delicious" in spanish!), but it's also by far the easiest to clean the seeds out of!!! That's the only downer to cooking squash...the nasty seeds & gunk in the middle - yuuuuuck! So yeah, as you can see from the last picture, Dick and I ate every last bite. If all vegetables tasted like this one (pretty much like candy) parents would probably be getting requests from their kids for them every night hahaha ENJOY!
Sweet Roasted Acorn Squash
from Sunny Anderson on the Food Network

2 acorn squash, sliced in half & seeds removed
4 Tbsp butter
4 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp raw cane sugar
preheat oven to 450 degrees. assemble squash on a baking sheet. place 1 Tbsp of butter and brown sugar in each half. add 1/4 tsp of nutmeg to each and season with salt. bake until golden and tender, about 1 hour, basting flesh of the squash several times. 20 minutes before the squash is done, sprinkle the edges with raw sugar. serve squash warm.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Prudence Pennywise = my "Julia" & Ricotta blueberry pancakes

You know, it was no coincidence that I started my blog just about the same time the movie 'Julie & Julia' came out in was FATE! I'm being 100% serious when I tell you that my starting this cooking journey had absolutely nothing to do with that movie - cross my heart & hope to die. It really all started when I found the genius blog of Prudence Pennywise during my last fall semester of college - for the life of me, I cannot remember how I stumbled upon it, but it/she changed my life forever. I know, that probably sounds a little bit dramatic, but I promise you, that is no exaggeration. For the first time ever I was excited to cook, to try new recipes, and to step outside of my comfort zone in the kitchen. And now, even though not every single dish turns out to be a masterpiece, I feel like a culinary superhero hahaha! ok, so that one is a bit of an exaggeration...but really, for some crazy reason I get this ridiculous RUSH when cooking, and I feel like a new and happier person. I can't explain it, but I just know that I LOVE it, and I'm so happy I found Prudy! So, I read the book a few weeks ago, and last night I finally saw the movie (loved both, by the way!), which is why I had to explain all of this in the first place. I realized that Prudence Pennywise is my Julia Child. Thanks for everything, Prudence Pennywise. My world is a better place because of you!

And now, on with the show...I had all of this ricotta cheese left over from the lasagna a made awhile ago, so I searched (yep, you guessed it!) the Food Network website for recipes that called for ricotta, and tuh-dah - ricotta blueberry pancakes by none other than the wonderful, beautiful, and let's face it, busty Giada De Laurentiis. I even woke up extra early to make these before I went to work, and they were totally worth it!!! I really didn't think that the honey syrup would make that big of a difference, and I almost didn't make it, but thank heavens I did - it was divine! The flavors go together perfectly, and the whole thing is just super simple. If you don't want to wake up before work to make them, at least do it on a weekend. I know the statement I'm about to make is a bold one, but I just have to say it: best pancakes EVER! Really, truly they are. You'll think so, too - I just know it!

Ricotta blueberry pancakes
from Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network

2 c. water
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. honey
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. pancake mix (I used whole wheat Krusteaz)
1 c. whole milk ricotta cheese (I used part skim)
2/3 c. frozen blueberries
melted butter
stir 1/3 c. water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, about 5 min. stir in honey. set aside & keep warm.
using a rubber spatula, stir in the remaining 1 2/3 c. water & vanilla in a large bowl. add pancake mix and stir until just moistened, but still lumpy. stir the ricotta cheese into the pancake mixture, then stir gently to incorporate the ricotta, but maintain a lumpy batter. fold in the blueberries.
heat a griddle over medium heat. brush with melted butter. working in batches, spoon 1/4 c. of batter onto the griddle for each pancake. cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes each side. serve with honey syrup.

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