Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday night = slow cooker night

Wednesdays we are out through early evening, so by the time we get home everyone is starving. I have a short window of time around 2:30 or 3pm, so that's when I get dinner into my slow cooker. Most of the recipes in my repertoire seem to only need three to four hours, so this works out well.

Tonight I wanted to make a healthy and yummy soup that is usually made stovetop, but I realized how ridiculous it would be to rush to make it, let it cool, put in the fridge, and then reheat a few hours later. So I decided to see if it would adapt to the slow cooker. And good news, it did!

Here is my modified version of
Garlic-Infused Broccoli Soup with Ditalini, from the Washington Post

one small onion
one medium carrot, or a handful of baby carrots
two large broccoli crowns
a few cloves of garlic (I use a jar and just scoop some out)

Throw all of this into your slow cooker, and stir in 6 c of chicken or veggie stock.

Set to cook on high for three hours.

In the meantime, cook up 6 oz of ditalini. Put this in the fridge.

When you get home, use an immersion blender to puree the soup about halfway so it is still chunky. Stir in the pasta; add salt and pepper and enjoy!

This soup is delicious with grated Parmesan on top. This evening, we skipped that because I set out some sliced pumpernickel and a cheese plate, along with some melon.

Monday, January 26, 2015

I haven't posted in a while because honestly, I have grown weary of scrubbing my muffin tins. Especially when I've made anything savory involving eggs or cheese...I confess I am tempted to throw the pan away rather than spend twenty minutes sweating over the sink.

But that doesn't mean I haven't been baking or cooking. Au contraire, food seems to be my sole creative outlet these days, so I do pour myself into making (and eating!) it. So while I do not expect anyone to follow this blog, I will start using it as a food journal for my own purposes, a way to document projects that are successful enough to make again.

Here is what I am cooking this week.

Many moons ago, my mom clipped and sent me a recipe from Cooking Light. This was so long ago that I cannot even dredge up the recipe from their online database, but I am fortunate enough to have it in my beloved recipe binder.

The recipe sat untested for years, until a few months ago, when looking for different ways to use the CSA veggies I picked up each week, I gave it a try.

Why did I wait so long?? This casserole is just delicious. It's not the quickest fix, but it will last you a few days and reheats well. I made it again yesterday to bring to dinner at a friend's home. Even my daughter's best friend pronounced it "actually pretty good!" - high praise coming from a ten year old.

Yellow Squash Gratin, from Cooking Light
makes 8 servings

cooking spray
2 c chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
12 c yellow squash, halved lengthwise and cut into 1/4" slices (about 3 lbs)  - I didn't use this much; recipe is very forgiving.
1/2 c chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t black pepper
3 c cooked long-grain rice
3/4 c grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 slice white bread
1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
1 T butter, melted

Heat a dutch oven coated with cooking spray or a bit of oil over med hi heat. Sauté onion for five minutes or till tender. Add garlic, sauté 30 seconds. Add squash, sauté 7 minutes or just till tender.

Remove from heat; stir in parsley, salt, thyme and pepper. Add rice, Gruyere, and eggs, stirring until combined.

Spoon mixture into 13x9" baking dish coated with cooking spray.

Place bread in food processor and pulse till you have fine crumbs. Combine with Parmesan and melted butter. Sprinkle over casserole.

Bake at 375 for 30 minutes or till lightly browned. Let stand five minutes before serving.

Super Easy French Onion Soup

I don't eat red meat, but as my family loves it I try to accommodate their cravings without ruining the meal with my lack of expertise. Over the weekend, I sliced up a bagful of onions, tossed them in the slow cooker with a drizzle of olive oil, some salt and a splash of balsamic vinegar, and let the whole thing sit on low overnight. We woke to the delicious smell of caramelized onions with very little effort. Over the course of the weekend, my husband and daughter enjoyed bowl after bowl of French Onion Soup.

Scoop some of the slow-cooked onions into a broiler-safe bowl. Pour beef broth over. At this point I heated the soup in the microwave for about 30 seconds, just to ensure that it would be heated all the way through.

Tear up a slice of bakery bread, add to the bowl, and top with a generous sprinkle of shredded Swiss and/or Gruyere cheeses. Place under the broiler for five minutes and enjoy!

Side note: I did squirrel away a portion of onions for this evening's steak sandwich dinner. Hopefully I won't overcook the meat for those, and my carnivores will enjoy the onions again, along with marinara and provolone on subs rolls. (I will have an eggplant sub!)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Banana Granola Muffins

I've been snowed in for exactly half a day and have been cooking nonstop...because that's what I do when I don't know what else to do. Tonight the kitchen was finally clean and there was an overripe banana bothering me on the counter. School is already cancelled tomorrow so I figured I'd bake some quick muffins so the kids will have something ready to eat when they get up. Here's what emerged:

Banana Granola Muffins

Whisk together:

3/4 c all-purpose flour
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/4 c oat bran
1/2 c sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/2 t cinnamon

In separate bowl blend:

1/2 c plain yogurt
1 egg
1/2 c applesauce
1 t vanilla

Add wet ingredients to dry.

Mash up two small/med bananas and fold into mixture. Scoop into sprayed muffin tin, about 2/3 full. Top each with a sprinkle of granola. Bake at 350 for 22 minutes and remove to cool on wire rack.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Salmon, corn and leek mini quiches

Anything with eggs is always a hit in our house. It's one of the only ways I can get veggies into my kids.

1 can of reduced-fat biscuits
5 eggs
1/2 c milk (or non-dairy substitute)
1/2 c frozen corn
2 leeks, diced
1 T olive oil
1/2 tin of salmon
salt, pepper

Coat a muffin tin generously with nonstick cooking spray. Split biscuits in half and put one into each cup. Bake at 375 for 5 minutes.

Sautée corn and leeks in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Mix eggs, milk, veggies and salmon in medium bowl. Pour over half-baked biscuits and put back into oven for another 10 minutes or until eggs are set.

We ate these with rosemary potato wedges and pear slices last night. Leftovers make a great breakfast or lunch!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Fun with leftovers

Last week for our anniversary breakfast I made To Die For Blueberry Muffins, which have a yummy streusel topping. These are not my usual healthy muffins; these are a rich treat that my husband loves so I make them on special occasions. The recipe always makes far too much topping...even when I mixed up less I still found myself with a surplus so I popped it into the fridge for another time.

Over the weekend I had a craving for banana bread, so I made some super healthy banana muffins and added a sprinkle of the topping to each. They turned out beautifully!

For these, I use the Mott's banana bread recipe as a base. I cut the sugar down to 1/2 c and use half whole wheat and half all-purpose flour. I love how much fruit my kids are getting when they eat one of these before school.

I also had some leftover pecan topping from some Thanksgiving cookies, which I added to plain pumpkin muffins yesterday and those were also delicious. I started with Dean's Favorite Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and left out the chocolate chips but topped them off before baking. The cookie topping had chopped pecans, a bit of soy creamer, margarine and could easily replicate with some chopped nuts and a bit of maple syrup or honey for the same yummy effect. Here's a photo.

I think I will experiment more with toppings because they make ordinary muffins more appealing and you get a lot of bang for your buck in terms of fat and calories...a little bit goes a long way. Happy baking!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mocha Banana Muffins

Had a few minutes before the buses came this afternoon and decided to experiment. My kids are as addicted to chocolate as I am and can be a hard sell in the morning. Maybe they'll go for these.

3/4 c all purpose flour
3/4 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c oat bran
3/4 c sugar
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 t instant coffee granules
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon

Mix these dry ingredients together.

1 banana, mashed well
1 egg
1 c buttermilk (add 1 T lemon juice to scant cup milk, let stand 5 minutes)
1 T canola oil

Whisk these ingredients and then gently blend into dry mixture.  Pour into prepared muffin tin and bake at 350 for 15-16 minutes.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Something out of nothing: more savory bread puddings

I have really been baking up a storm lately.  It's definitely time for a break, so I made one last batch of pumpkin chocolate chip muffins for my kids' gymnastics teachers today and tackled one more project before beginning my hiatus (which I give a week).

I had some stale french bread (and when I say stale, I mean rock hard) and I had to decide: pitch, process into bread crumbs, or turn into a side dish for a night when I'm too rushed/unimaginative/lazy to cook? I went with door #3.

Much like Spinach Feta Bread Puddings, you can make savory side dishes using leftover stale bread along with any veggie or cheese you might have around.  Think onion slices from that bagel brunch, last of the olives in the jar, handful of sundried tomatoes. No rules.

Once I had sawed - and I mean sawed - the bread into chunks, I added:

3 beaten eggs (I had a lot of bread; if you have half a baguette or less I'd go with 2)
about 2 c chopped baby spinach
1 c diced orange peppers
about 2/3 c of mozzarella cheese
and enough plain soy milk (any kind you like is fine) to douse all the bread through and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or so.

As long as there's enough liquid to break your bread down, the amount of ingredients is completely flexible.

Scooped into spray muffin tin and baked at 375 for about 22 minutes.

These will not win any prize for their beauty, nor will they become a dinner party must-have, but they are a great way to turn scraps into something yummy. Get yourself a rotisserie chicken from the grocery and dinner is done!