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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Baked Kale Chips

Every so often, I noticed a trend on food blogs.  There are some groups out there that choose a recipe, make/bake the recipe and subsequently post.  Those blogs normally overload the feed on Foodgawker or Tastespotting.  But, every so often, someone will make a recipe and others will take note.  This sparks a few subsequent posts and they always intrigue me.  Most recently, I noticed several posts about Baked Kale Chips.  I decided it was time to give in.  And, I am so glad that I did.  

I thought these were incredible.  You drizzle some olive oil over the Kale leaves and you can season them as much as you want.  Better yet, they are healthy!  Kale is an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C.. It is also a very good source of dietary fiber, copper, calcium, vitamin B6 and potassium.  I'm not sure if I'll omit regular baked potato chips from my life, but these will certain fill the crunchy/salty void when I'm looking for a snack.

Even Ron tried one.  (But, in true Ron fashion, he complained about the "damn parsley cnip green thing" taste that stuck with him for the entire day.)

Baked Kale Chips
Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
  • 1 bunch (about 6 ounces) kale
  • about 1 tbsp olive oil
  • seasoning, to taste 
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Rinse and dry the kale. 
  3. Remove stems and tough center ribs.
  4. Toss with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until crisp.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Pasta Bean Toss

This recipe might not appeal to some, but it definitely appealed to me.  After several weeks of complaining about being sick and feeling fatigue, I've started to wonder if I am anemic.  Many other symptoms are showing and I'm ready to head to the doctor again.  I've been told that I was "slightly anemic" but I'm not sure if something else is going on.  So, hopefully the doctor can straighten me out and not just send me away with the standard "you are too stressed and need to take better care of yourself" diagnosis.  In the meantime, I've been trying to eat healthier and eat foods that I know are good for me.

This recipe appealed to me because of all of the nutrients that are packed in.  It was created by a nutrition professor at Boston University.  I originally clipped it from a Runner's World magazine as a good meal to eat to refuel postrun/postride.  It is packed with vegetables, carbs and protein.  It turned out so good!  The only problem is the amount that it makes.  I will be eating this stuff for an entire week!  Here's to hoping it restores whatever is wrong in my body :)
Pasta Bean Toss
adapted from Runner's World
Yield:  6 servings
  • 1 lb whole-grain penne
  • 2 medium red onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 5 carrots, cut julienne-style
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 C raw broccoli florets
  • 12 ripe plum (roma) tomatoes, diced
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 tbsp fresh basil or parsley, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans
  • 1 15-ounce can white kidney beans
  • 1/2 C grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Cook pasta according to package.
  2. Meanwhile, saute onions and garlic in oil until tender in large frying pan (about 2 minutes).
  3. Add remaining veggies, tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, and basil or parsley.  Simmer for 4 minutes.
  4. Add beans and simmer for 2 minutes or until veggies are tender.
  5. Add pasta and cheese, and toss.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

5 minute Lunch idea!

Over the past few months, I've talked many people into making wraps and stir-frys for lunch and/or dinner.  I'm proud of this.  I even think I have something to do with the Minute brown rice commercials on tv.  (At an office lunch table, people are complaining about lunch choices.  Everyone is jealous of the woman who heats up her individual brown rice serving in the microwave and mixes it with vegetables to make a quick stir-fry.)  Ok, so I am kidding about being responsible for the commercial.  But, considering I've been doing this and eating these rice bowls for the past few years now, I'm going to go ahead thinking that I did.

Microwaveable rice has become so popular.  If you head into the rice section, there are endless options for effectiveness.  The flavors are improving too!  I recently saw one for caribbean red beans and brown rice.  And, while I'm not advocating for always eating rice that is prepared in this way, I am advocating for it if you are rushing out the door and need something quick to eat!  It is much better than stopping at a fast food joint.

This week has been kind of crazy.  I've been home a lot, but I really haven't moved from the office because I'm preparing for a final.  Kitchen time is short on these days because my mind is on overload.  It is times like these that recipes fail because I can't follow simply instructions.  It reminds me of my pre-kitchen days.  I was studying for the LSAT and trying to make a box of mashed potatoes.  Not only did I mess the recipe up once.  But, I messed it up 3 TIMES.  For a box of mashed potatoes!  There are only like 3 ingredients that you use!  Argh, so I learned my lesson.  Still, this doesn't give me an excuse to eat cereal for lunch.  So, here is another one of my individual quick lunches.  The end result?  Something hearty, nutritious and delicious!  It took about . . . 3 minutes to make (my veggies were precut from another meal earlier).  I suggest you try.  It can easily be adapted by whatever rice, vegetables or mix-ins you want.  3 minutes!  Everyone has 3 minutes!
Brown Rice & Quinoa w/ Peppers and Broccoli

  • 1 c of Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice microwave blend (reserve remaining rice for evening use or use all for a hearty lunch!)  Any microwave blend can be used in place of this.
  • 1/2 c carrot
  • 2/3 c broccoli florets
  • 2/3 c chopped red and green bell pepper
  • 1/4 c feta cheese
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • Nuts (walnuts or pine nuts would taste good), if desired
  1. Cook rice according to package.
  2. Put vegetables in bowl and mix with cooked rice.
  3. Sprinkle feta, parsley and nuts.  Enjoy!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Strawberry Muffins

Earlier this week, I realized that I was craving fruity muffins.  I turned to my recipe que and noticed that I had bookmarked a recipe from a Clean Eating site for Kiwi muffins.  Kiwi?  I was interested.  But, I'm still going forward with my spending diet and was determined not to run to the store for more fruit.  I'm stocked right now with apples, bananas and berries.  So, I decided to make the muffins with strawberries.  And, I'm so glad that I did!

I tweaked this recipe a bit.  It is no longer "clean" but I used what I had on hand.  Original clean recipe can be found by clicking on the blog title.  I made a small batch so the measurements reflect 1/2 dozen.  Two days later and they are all gone!  I guess I should have made a full dozen.  Adjust as needed :)
Strawberry Muffins
adapted from The Gracious Pastry
Yield:  6 muffins
  • 3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 c wheat bran
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/4 c agave
  • 1/8 c (or 2 tbsp) canola oil
  • 1/8 c 2% milk (or soy milk)
  • 1/2 c chopped fruit of choice (I used strawberries)
  1. Prepare your muffin tin by spraying the top surface with a light coat of olive oil and placing muffins paper in the tins.
    1. I use a silicone muffin pan.  It's much easier to just pop them out!
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients (flour through wheat bran).
  4. In a separate bowl, combine all wet ingredients except for the fruit.
  5. Mix both bowls separately and then combine.  (Batter will be thick.)
  6. Fold in your fruit and scoop into muffin tins.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Muffins will be done when toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Peanut Noodles with Chicken

I staged an intervention this week.  On myself.  I had to put myself on a spending diet because I have become obsessed with grocery stores.  This blog has encouraged me to spend more time buying fresh produce and healthy vegetables, but it has also encouraged me to run to the store nearly 4 or 5 times a week.  Grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do.  I love browsing the aisles and looking at the new products.  MN grocery stores are like nothing I've ever seen.  Byerly's makes me feel comfortable.  I look forward to a Saturday evening spent at the grocery store with a stop at the bookstore.  Wow.  I sound old.  Although I haven't checked out Pittsburgh's new Market District (which is a must stop on my visit home in May - this place comes complete with traffic cops because it's the mother-load of grocery stores), I think that Byerly's is one of the best grocery stores ever!!

But, even though I love grocery shopping, unfortunately for my wallet, I lack restraint.  So, if I run to the store to pick up "just some bell peppers" I end up leaving with the milk that I kind of needed, the bread that I am almost out of and the 12 cartons of single serve ice cream that I was suddenly craving.  Like many people, what should be $10 trips turn into $50 trips.  And, those add up.

So, this week is restricted to what is in the cabinets, fridge and freezer.  Aside from the vegetables I already have, I won't be buying fresh vegetables, but I have plenty of frozen vegetables.  Though not ideal, they will work just fine and I'll end up saving them a life sentence of freezer burn.

My first attempt at using up household ingredients was a Thai inspired meal that I've been wanting to try.  I crave peanuts and Ron's been excited to eat this meal.  Overall, it turned out pretty good.  The original recipe called for Soba noodles but I used about 10 oz of WW linguine that I had on hand.  I can imagine Soba noodles tasting very good with this recipe.  I used 1 tsp of red pepper flakes and boy did it add a kick to the sauce!  If you want something mild, I'd suggest adding .5 tsp or leaving it out completely.  I'd also suggest pairing this with a side salad.  I ate my noodles on some spinach leaves.  The sauce is so thick that I needed something green to balance it out!

I think the only downfall to this recipe was that it made me realize that I am out of honey and soy sauce! Argh!!  Must exercise restraint not to run to store to buy these items.
Peanut Noodles with Chicken
adapted from Cooking Light
Yield:  6 servings, 1 cup each
  • 1 carrot, peeled (I used about 1 c of matchstick carrots)
  • 1/3 c FF, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/3 c peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp chopped peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 - 2 tsp crushed red pepper (added too much kick.  Use 0-.5 tsp for milder flavor)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 lb skinless, boneless chicken breast (cooked and shredded or cooked and cut into 2-inch pieces)
  • 5 c cooked soba noodles (about 10 ounces - I used WW linguine)
  • 6 tbsp sliced green onions
  • 6 tbsp chopped, unsalted, dry roasted peanuts
  1. Cook chicken and shred/cut as desired.  Set aside.
  2. Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Combine 1/3 c broth, peanut butter, ginger, soy sauce, honey, pepper, and garlic in a large bowl.  Stir with a whisk until smooth.
  4. Add cooked chicken, carrots and noodles to peanut sauce.  Toss to coat.
  5. Sprinkle individual servings with onions and peanuts.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Israeli Couscous with Raisins

I came home from an endurance ride the other day and I was ravenous.  By the time I had showered, I had devoured an apple and wayyy too many pretzels.  I was starving!!  My work-outs are starting to take over my life at this point.  I'm in week 7 of an 18-week program and I'm starting to feel it.  Everything, everything is sore and my body is a wreck!  Last week, my cardio activities alone maxed out at 11 hours.  That is a lot of cardio!  Fortunately, this week is a recovery week and I'm certain my body will appreciate the rest.  Granted, I rest as needed, but this tri-training hasn't given me the opportunity to accommodate for how sick I've been getting.  But, I have been making wise choices.  I'm getting sick for a reason and I've heeded my body's demands to slow down.

Anyway, I opened up the cabinet and knew I needed something.  And something needed to come fast!  I refused to settle for a quick bagel.  I needed something hearty, nutritious and good.  Something that would fill me up and serve as a good recovery meal to replenish the 1,500 calories I had just burned!  I spotted a box of Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous and I knew exactly what I wanted.  I had spotted a recipe in a recent Food Network magazine for Israeli Couscous w/ Raisins.  The entire recipe took about 15 minutes to make.  And, it was incredible!  I added some additional spices at the end to my individual bowl and focused on keeping a sweet cinnamon taste mixed throughout.  But, I also chose to include some red pepper flakes to add a bit of a kick.  In addition, I chopped up a Lady Alice apple (an exceptional piece of fruit) to stir in to keep the 'sweet' taste.  YUM!!  I am very pleased with the end result and this should definitely be saved to include in your recipe box.
Israeli Couscous with Raisins
adapted from Food Network
Yield:  About 5 generous servings
  • 2 c Israeli couscous (I used Gefen Whole Wheat)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • Olive oil (about .5-1 tbsp)
  • Cinnamon
  • 1 c golden raisins
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1/2 - 3/4 c of sliced almonds or roasted peanuts
  • Fruit of choice, if desired (apple or banana would be delicious) 
  • Additional spices:  cinnamon, sliced green onions, black pepper, salt, italian seasoning, red pepper flakes, etc.
  1. Cook couscous as the label directs; drain if needed.
  2. Saute diced onion in olive oil with a pinch of cinnamon until golden, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add 1 c golden raisins and 2 tbsp water.  Cook 2 minutes.
  4. Once cooked, add raisins to the couscous.  Add nuts and toss evenly throughout.
  5. Serve in individual bowls.  Add fruit for preference and season as desired.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Laugenbroetchen (aka German Bretzel rolls)

Last May, my mom and I ate at a fantastic German organic bistro that served sandwiches on bretzel rolls while we were traveling in Chicago.  The cafe, Hannah's Bretzels, pretty much blew me away.  They use fresh, quality, local and nutritious ingredients to prepare a delicious meal.  Their facebook descriptions lists them as:  "Chicago's 1st Earth Conscious quick service sandwich business focusing on Organic Ingredients and Whole Grain nutrition + the Environment."  They even do their deliveries on a bike!  Ah. Maze. Ing.  

The only downfall?  Currently, their only locations are in the Loop.  Thus, they are opened for limited hours to accommodate the business crowds.  Obviously, this is resourceful from the business standpoint, but I couldn't help but crave their sandwiches during non-business hours.  And well, since we don't live in Chicago, there isn't much I can do when I am craving a sandwich at 9pm on a Sunday evening.

So, I've become accustomed to making up my own bretzel rolls and recreating some of the shop's sandwiches.  I will admit that this bretzel recipe is not as good as Hannah's, but it certainly fills the void.  I'm proud to admit that my yeast/bread making skills are improving.  I get some type of sick pleasure kneading my own dough, despite having a machine that could easily do it for me.  These are great for sandwiches.  They also remind me of something you'd see included in the traditional German breakfast spread.  Several years have passed since my trip to Germany, but their breakfasts are unbelievable!  All of the local meats, cheeses, bread, fresh yogurt!  I want to go back...

Every blue moon, I crave a ham and swiss sandwich.  So, I made up a ham and swiss for my bretzel sandwich and paired with... pretzels!  The recipe makes 8 rolls so we have some left over.  I think I'll shoot for an egg sandwich this evening!
Pretzel Rolls
adapted from Fake Ginger
Yield:  8 servings
  • 2 3/4 c bread flour
  • 1 envelope quick-rising yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 c + 2 tbsp (about) hot water (125 degrees F - 130 degrees F)
  • Cornmeal
  • 8 c water
  • 1/4 c baking soda
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 egg white, beaten to blend (for glaze)
  • coarse salt
  1. Combine bread flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and water in large bowl (or stand mixer) and stir until dough comes together in a ball.
  2. Put on floured surface and knead for about 5 minutes or until the dough is elastic and smooth.
  3. Grease medium bowl; add dough to bowl, turn to coat.
  4. Cover bowl w/ plastic wrap, then towel; let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 35 minutes.
  5. Flour baking sheet.  Punch dough down and knead on lightly floured surface until smooth.
  6. Divide into 8 pieces; form each dough piece into a ball.
  7. Place dough balls on prepared sheet, flattening each slightly.
  8. Using serrated knife, cut X in top center of each dough ball.
  9. Cover with towel and let dough balls rise until almost doubled in volume, about 20 minutes.
  10. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  11. Grease another baking sheet and sprinkle with cornmeal.
  12. Bring 8 cups water to boil in large saucepan.  Add baking soda and 2 tbsp sugar (water will foam up).
  13. Add 4 rolls X side up and cook 30 seconds before flipping over and cooking for another 30 seconds.
  14. Using slotted spoon, transfer rolls to prepared sheet, arranging X side up.
  15. Repeat with remaining rolls.
  16. Brush rolls with egg white glaze.  Sprinkle rolls generously with coarse salt.
  17. Bake rolls until brown, about 25 minutes.
  18. Transfer to racks and cool 10 minutes.  Serve warm or room temperature.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shepherd's Pie and Brown Soda Bread

We had an Irish meal for St. Patty's Day.  A shepherd's pie w/ some brown soda bread.  Ron had some Irish Ale as a side and followed up with a green shamrock whoopie pie.  It was a nice, relaxing evening and a lovely end to a beautiful, sunny day (nevermind the fact that we're both sick).  However, preparation for this meal was pretty time-consuming! So, it is certainly something to enjoy when you have a longer period of time to cook.  I'm in a week where I an afford (who am I kidding?) to spare some longer hours in the kitchen.  I've prepped for most of my classes for the next week and I'm about to dive into 3 straight weeks of pure hell.  So, I deserved it :)  Anyway, the bread took about 1.5 hours.  The cookies took about 2 hours (from start to finish).  And this pie?  Well, it was very involved.  I actually decided to make the potatoes the night earlier (~35 minutes) to cut some of the time in half. But, the prep work for the meat part of the meal took a full hour and then some!

Granted, there was some down time in between the steps, but it is certainly not a quick weeknight meal!  The recipe was very easy to make.  I ended up baking the pie in a 8 inch baking dish.  I didn't have a 10 inch baking dish and this recipe makes a ton!  I had no idea what size to use.  I ended up leaving about a 3/4 cup of mashed potatoes out because I didn't think I could pack any more in the dish.  I used very large potatoes, so maybe I used bigger potatoes.  This is why I prefer recipes that give measurements in weight/volume/ounces/etc.  It's easier to make the recipe as perfect as the original chef!  The baking dish worked ok, but it still managed to overflow onto the bottom of the oven.  

The St. Patty's Day meal was generally a success.  Even though the shepherd's pie isn't completely irish (I guess traditional shepherd's pies use lamb.  But, EEK!  Lamb?  No thanks!) the meal was still incredible and a fun way to celebrate Ron's Irish roots.  Plus, it was my first attempt to make mashed potatoes.  They turned out awesome.  They were so quick and easy.  And, I plan to make them often.  The bread recipe is lighter than your traditional bread, but it is a super healthy version.  It does not skimp on flavor by any means.  Ron loved it and that's saying something if it's a lighter/healthy version.  I love Irish oats, so this bread will be made in this household often.  I recommend spreading with apple butter for a delicious breakfast.

I couldn't get a really good picture of the Shepherd's pie when it was cut open.  It actually looked really greasy, so I decided it was best not to post an unappetizing photo.  Even though the pie was good, I doubt I'll be making it again.  It took way too long for the taste.  It was really thick and I'm not such a fan of red meat and bacon.  But, that's just my personal preference.  
Shepherd's Pie
adapted from Food Network (Melissa d'Arabian)
Yield:  6 -8 servings
  • For Potatoes
    • 4 large russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
    • 10 whole garlic cloves, peeled
    • 1/2 c sour cream
    • 1/4 - 1/2 beef broth
    • 4 tbsp butter, softened
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • nonstick cooking spray
  • For Filling
    • 4 slices bacon, cut into thin strips
    • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
    • 2 medium onions, chopped
    • 1/2 tsp salt, plus 1/2 tsp
    • 1 tsp sugar
    • 1 lb ground beef
    • 2 - 3 medium carrots, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
    • 3/4 c frozen peas, thawed
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 tbsp tomato paste
    • 1 tbsp AP flour
    • 1 (12-ounce) bottle light or dark beer
    • 1/2 c beef broth
    • 1 tsp finely minced fresh rosemary leaves
    • 1/2 tsp black pepper
    • 1/2 c grated swiss or cheddar cheese (I left out)
    • 2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley leaves)
  1. Prepare potato topping:  In a large saucepan, add potatoes and garlic and cover w/ cold water.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are fork tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Drain.  Transfer the potatoes and garlic to a large bowl.  Add sour cream, 1/4 c of the broth, butter, salt and pepper, and beat on low speed with a hand mixer until the potatoes are light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes.  If the mixture is too dry, add the remaining 1/4 c broth.  Do not overmix.  Cover and set aside.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray a 10-inch round baking dish with nonstick spray.
  3. Prepare filling:  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally until browned and almost crisp, about 7-8 minutes.  With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a place and set side.
  4. Add the oil to the drippings in the skillet and put over medium heat.  Add the onions and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Cook stirring occasionally until the onions are very soft and just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle in the sugar and cook until the onions begin to caramelize, about 3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the beef and cook over medium-high heat until the beef begins to brown, about 7 minutes.
  6. Add the carrots, peas, and garlic.  Cook until the vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.
  7. Stir in the tomato paste and flour and cook, stirring, until well-blended, about 2 minutes.
  8. Add the beer, bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes.  Cook, stirring w/ a wooden spoon, and scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, about 2 minutes.
  9. Add the cooked bacon, the broth, rosemary, 1/2 tsp of salt, and the pepper, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes.
  10. Spoon the meat mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Spread the potato topping evenly over the beef mixture.  Bake until the filling is hot, the topping is lightly browned and the edges are bubbly, about 35 minutes.
  11. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the cheese.
  12. Return to the oven and bake for 10 more minutes.
  13. Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
Brown Soda Bread
adapted from Cooking Light
Yield:  12 servings (1 slice)
  • Cooking spray
  • 11.25 oz whole-wheat flour (about 2.5 cups)
  • 2.25 oz AP flour (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup steel-cut oats
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp wheat germ (I used wheat bran)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 c low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. Coat a 9x5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.  Line the pan with parchment paper, and coat with cooking spray.
  3. Weigh or lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups, and level with a knife.  Combine flours and next 6 ingredients (through salt).  Combine buttermilk and egg; add to flour mixture.  Stir until just combined.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan.  Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Invert bread onto a wire rack; cool completely.
  6. Remove parchment and slice!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Shamrock Whoopie Pies

Happy St. Patty's Day!  Look at how adorable these shamrock whoopie pies are!  Check them out :)  Did you see them?  Good, because those three are the only three that I made.  And by now, Ron has eaten all of them.

I began this baking adventure with good intentions.  In fact, I was super pumped about making these shamrock cookie pies.  I planned to bring them into the office and smile knowing that I had a fun, enjoyable experience while baking them.  But, ten minutes in and I was doing everything but smiling.  Apparently, I forgot about my ongoing feud with piping bags.  Two minutes into piping and I was covered in green dough.  My counter were covered and Salem, who I mistakenly forgot to feed prior to beginning, was also covered.  It was not pretty.  (No picture of Salem covered in green, but check her out pre-dye job looking for ways to get into trouble.)

So, my fun St. Patty's Day treat turned into regular green whoopie pies.  This is fine, but considering half of the batter was on the cat, I was unable to make enough to take to work.  We have about 7 whoopie pies total.  But, I don't think Ron is complaining because they are pretty damn good :)

Shamrock Green Velvet Whoopie Pies
adapted from Homemade by Holman who adapted from Annie's Eats
  • 1/2 c unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 c light brown sugar, packed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 T light corn syrup
  • 2 c AP flour
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 1/2 - 1 oz green liquid food coloring
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Trace shape that you wish to use on parchment paper and line a baking sheet with pencil side down.
  3. Beat butter and sugar in mixing bowl on medium high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add egg and beat until well incorporated.
  5. Mix in vanilla and corn syrup, beating about 30 seconds more.
  6. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a small mixing bowl.
  7. Add 1/3 of the mix to the batter and beat on low speed until just incorporated.
  8. Add 1/2 of the buttermilk and beat until just incorporated.
  9. Repeat steps 7 and 8.
  10. Finish by adding the last 1/3 of the flour mix.  Scrape sides of bowl as needed.
  11. Add food coloring; starting with about 1/2 and mix until the color is uniform, but do not overbeat.
  12. Transfer batter to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip and pipe onto parchment paper.
    1. Or use a cookie scoop and scoop large, round balls onto parchment paper :)
  13. Bake about 8 minutes until the cookies are set.
  14. Cool about 5 minutes on the pan and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • 8 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 5 T unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 c powdered sugar
  1. Beat cream cheese and butter on medium high speed until smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add in vanilla and beat about another minute.
  3. Add powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time beating on low until incorporated.
  4. Transfer to a piping bag and pipe onto back of 1/2 the cookies.
    1. Or just use spatula to spread.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Shrimp with Spinach and Orzo

We eat a lot of shrimp.  I never made shrimp at home until I started this blog and started browsing the internet for recipes.  There are so many recipes that use shrimp and I'm finding out why.  Shrimp is easy to cook and it's pretty difficult to overcook.  Plus, it can basically be paired with anything and turn out well.  I saw this recipe and knew I wanted to try it.  It looked simple and it looked very good.  I'm a big fan of feta so I knew the cheese part would be right up my alley!

Overall, the dish wasn't bad.  However, I plan to make this again with chicken and no shrimp.  As I ate this meal, I ended up taking all of the shrimp out and just eating the pasta & spinach mixture.  I'm used to eating shrimp with a lighter flavor.  The tomato + shrimp flavor overwhelmed me and I can't say I was a big fan.  For me, the pasta mixture alone would be a very good meal.  Pair with some chicken and it'd please the carnivore in the house.  

I used a 13x9 baking pan and the recipe makes a ton!  In a 2 person household, we'll be eating a lot of leftovers!
Shrimp with Spinach and Orzo
adapted from Cooking on the Side
Yield:  An 13x9 baking dish - divide that amongst the folks eating!
  • 2 cups orzo
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 package (10 oz.) frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. shrimp, shelled and deveined
  • 1 can (28 oz.) crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly grease an 11×15-inch pan (or a 13x9-inch pan). 
  2. Cook orzo according to package directions; drain and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Stir in spinach and drained diced tomatoes.  Spoon into prepared pan.
  3. Cook garlic in remaining oil. Add shrimp; sauté until just pink. 
  4. Add crushed tomatoes and oregano; simmer until slightly reduced. 
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon over orzo mixture; top with cheese.
  6. Bake 15 minutes or until heated through. Garnish with parsley, if desired.  Serve with bread or a side salad.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Baked Potato Soup

Have you ever had baked potato in soup form?  We have.  And wow was it awesome!!

I found this recipe while browsing through the Cooking Light website a few nights ago.  I have a ton of potato soup recipes bookmarked, but for some reason, this one appealed to me and I knew I had to make it immediately.  I think the recipe appealed to me because we were on day 3 of straight gloom/clouds/rain/puke weather.  Anytime I deal with garbage weather like that for a too many days in a row, I crave comfort and hearty soup foods.

This soup turned out very well.  I did have to add some additional seasoning to it, but this is because I am a salt and pepper. freak.  It tasted exactly like a baked potato in soup form and I did not have a single complaint about the soup.  I didn't use the bacon, but Ron did, and he loved it.  I also decided to add about 1.5 cups of the peeled potato skins to the soup for more texture.  I really enjoyed the addition and I think Ron did too.  I'm not a big fan of soup that doesn't have anything to chew.  Next time, I may do a mixture of 1/2 mashed and 1/2 potato chunks with skins still on.

The soup was a bit funny to reheat.  We had a lot of leftovers and it basically turned into a paste the next day.  However, a quick nuke in the microwave turned it back into a semi-liquid form (it was pretty thick to begin with) and I added about 1/2 c of cooked broccoli the second time around.  So good!  A potato soup that is so versatile after it's been cooked.  Definitely try this one.  Note:  nutritional information on Cooking Light website.  This can easily be adjusted/made with different cheese/milk, etc.
Baked Potato Soup
adapted from Cooking Light
Yield:  8 servings (serving size: about 1 1/2 cups soup, 1 1/2 teaspoons cheese, 1 1/2 teaspoons onions, and about 1 tablespoon bacon)

  • 4 baking potatoes (about 2.5 pounds)
    • Option of reserving about 1.5-2 cups of potato skins, cooked and peeled
  • 2/3 c AP flour (about 3 oz)
  • 6 c 2% milk
  • 1 c (4 oz) reduced-fat shredded extrasharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 c reduced fat sour cream
  • 3/4 c chopped green onions, divided
  • 6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Pierce potatoes with a fork; bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour or until tender.  Cool.  Peel potatoes, reserving potato skins if desired.  Coarsely mash.
  3. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cup; level with a knife.
  4. Place flour in a large Dutch oven; gradually add milk, stirring with a whisk until blended.
  5. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly (about 8 minutes).
  6. Add mashed potatoes, 3/4 c cheese, salt and 1/2 tsp pepper, stirring until cheese melts. 
  7. Remove from heat.
  8. Stir in sour cream and 1/2 c onions.
  9. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated (do not boil).
  10. Ladle soup into serving bowls and sprinkle each with remaining cheese, onions and bacon.

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    Blueberry Oat Muffins

    I haven't posted in a while.  :(  I've been sick and virtually unable to do anything.  I'm not quite sure what's wrong with me.  Perhaps it's everything tumbling in on me at once, or the fact that I've increased my exercise far beyond anything I've ever done before, but I'm kind of a wreck.  I keep falling over.  I'm tired.  I'm cranky.  I'm dizzy.  I'm gaining/losing weight.  I'm congested.  I have what appears to be a perpetual headache.  I spent a large part of my weekend at the doctor's office.  And, for the first time in my life, I opted not to do several workouts because I felt my body needed a break.  OK.  Enough complaining.  Sorry!

    Despite the above, I have been able to make some yummy food.  Though, I've opted for quick and easy recipes to limit the amount of time I'm moving around.  Some of them turned out good and others not so good.  You can tell when I put all of my efforts into something vs. not so much.  When you're sick, you want comfort food.  For me, comfort mood = muffins.  On my never-ending search for healthy muffins, I stumbled upon these.  I'm delighted to say that the muffins were very, very good.  When you use applesauce and WW flour in place of other typical muffin ingredients (such as AP flour and oil), the muffins might turn out too dry or too dense.  These combined both types of ingredients and kept the muffins moist and tasty.

    I cut the recipe in half to yield 6 muffins.  They were delicious when paired with my morning cup of coffee!
    Blueberry Buttermilk Oat Muffins
    adapted from Steph Chows
    Yield:  12-15 muffins

    • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
    • 1 1/4 cups oats
    • 1 tsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
    • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
    • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    • 2 tbsp canola oil
    • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
    • 3/4 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen - double if preferred)


    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
    2. In a large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. 
    3. In a medium bowl combine applesauce, buttermilk, sugar, oil and egg. 
    4. Make a well in dry ingredients and add applesauce mixture.  Stir until just moist.
    5. Fold in blueberries. 
    6. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full.
    7.  Bake for 16-18 minutes.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Thin Mint Brownies

    I love Girl Scout Cookies, yet I'm not sure why.  They are good, but I've had better cookies.  But, I still purchase these cookies every single time someone approaches me with the option.  Somehow, we ended up with 7 boxes of girl scout cookies this year.  S.E.V.E.N.  What the heck?  For someone who bakes as much as I do, this is completely unnecessary.  Apparently, I must have been making up for cookie-less times in past years (or I was shopping on an empty stomach) when I ordered these damn things.  

    So, I decided to do something fun with this impulse purchase.  Originally, I decided to have a mini-Girl Scout Challenge in my kitchen.  I have a ton of copycat recipes for girl scout cookies and thought it would be fun to have a bake-off/taste-test, etc.  Then I realized that it would be even more absurd to have double the amount of cookies in our house.  So, I settled on a single brownie recipe instead.   These brownies are baked with chunks of thin mint cookies.  

    I love dark chocolate and decided these would be made best with all things dark.  I opted for Hershey's dark cocoa powder instead of unsweetened cocoa powder.  I also used 8 ounces of dark chocolate (61% cacao) Ghiradelli baking chips instead of baking chocolate because I didn't have it on hand (although convenient, chocolate in bar form retains chocolate flavor much better than chips, it makes a difference in baked goods, try it!).  These brownies were an explosion of chocolate and pretty good.  I made mint brownies last year (during one of my 3am baking binge sessions at finals) with Andes baking chips and a chocolate ganache frosting.  Those turned out to be pretty good and I think that if I baked again, I would use that recipe w/ the thin mint pieces and add the ganache.  The brownies would be absolutely amazing.  I need to find that recipe...

    On a side note, my mom suggested that I start bringing some of my baked goods to a shelter or a senior citizen's community.  I often bring goodies into work/school, but I'm fearful that people get annoyed when I do this.  I'm weird, I know, but if someone was always shoving baked goods into my face, I'd feel compelled to eat them and I would feel bad if I turned them down.  I wish I had a place to bring all of these goodies (like a bakery shop that I own!!) and I am on a hunt to find a willing place.  I still intend to bring goodies into work/school, but for how much I bake, this stuff needs to go elsewhere too!  
    Thin Mint Brownies
    adapted from The Food Librarian
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
    • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 
      • I used Hershey's dark cocoa powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
    • 8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped 
      • I used dark Ghiradelli baking chips
    • 1 1/4 cups sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • 1 sleeve Girl Scout Thin Mint cookies, chopped. 
      • (16 cookies)
    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 
    2. Line 9 x 9 square pan with parchment paper and butter or spray with Pam with flour.
      1. I could not find my 9x9 so I used an 8x8.  It worked fine.
    3. In a small bowl, whisk flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
    4. Place butter and semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate in a large heat-proof bowl set over (not in) a saucepan of gently simmering water. 
      1. I used my double-boiler.
    5. Heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. 
    6. Remove bowl from heat. 
    7. Add sugar; mix to combine. 
    8. Add eggs one at a time, and mix to combine. 
    9. Add flour mixture; mix just until moistened (do not overmix). 
    10. Fold in chopped Girl Scout Thin Mints. 
    11. Transfer batter to prepared pan; smooth top.
    12. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 40-50 minutes. 
      1. Original recipe note: be sure to check them early.  The original recipe says "50-60 minutes" but she found them to be done at 50.
        1. With 8x8 pan, mine took about 46 minutes (with a wavering oven).  
    13. Cool in pan for 30 minutes.  
    14. Using paper overhang, lift brownies out of pan; transfer to a rack to cool completely (still on paper). 
    15. On a cutting board, using a dampened serrated knife, cut into squares.