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Monday, May 31, 2010

Balsamic Chicken with Spinach and Couscous

I made this recipe up the other night when I wanted a quick and easy dinner.  Quick and easy dinner we got.  It took less than about 20 minutes to prep and get on the table.  Then again, i did use a prepared box of organic spinach couscous instead of making my own.  Shame on me.  But, I doubt prepping your own would've added any substantial time.  Couscous cooks in mere minutes.  

This dish wasn't amazing, but it also wasn't terrible.  I've found that I've made similar dishes with more flavor, so I'll probably mess with some of the ingredients if I choose to make it again.  But, it is healthy!  So, quick, easy, healthy and edible = score!
Balsamic Chicken with Spinach and Couscous
adapted from Handle the Heat
Yield:  4 servings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 (8-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
  • 8 ounces baby spinach
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup low-sodium canned chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 2 cups whole wheat couscous, cooked

  1. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add the olive oil and heat. 
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. 
  4. Add the chicken and cook about 4 minutes per side, or until cooked through and juices run clear.
  5. Remove the chicken and set aside. 
  6. To the same pan, add the spinach and cook just until wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes.  Remove from the pan and set aside. 
  7. Lower the heat to medium and add the balsamic vinegar and chicken broth to the pan and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to remove any browned bits. 
  8. Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook 3 to 5 minutes.
  9. Place the couscous in a serving bowl.  Top with the spinach, chicken and balsamic-tomato sauce.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Soft Pretzels

I don't know why I haven't posted this recipe yet.  It was saved in my drafts for several weeks now.  We ate these back in April, so I don't know why the long wait, but I can assure you that these were awesome.

Not too much to add about the experience because I simply don't remember.  I do recall being frustrated with the rolling process, but this is not abnormal for my relationship with pretzel making.  I can never roll the dough thin enough to make a true pretzel shape.  Serve these with a cheese dip or a hot mustard sauce.  Yum!

Note:  the egg, technically, is not an essential ingredient unless you want your pretzels to turn brown.
Soft Pretzels
recipe from Alton Brown, Food Network 
Yield:  8 pretzels
  • 1 1/2 cups warm (110-115 degrees F) water
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 pkg active dry yeast
  • 22 ounces AP flour, approx 4 1/2 cups
  • 2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
  • veggie oil, for pan
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 large egg yolk beaten w/ 1 tbsp water
  • pretzel salt
  1. Combine the water, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on the top.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until mixture begins to foam.  
  2. Add the flour and butter and, if using dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined.
  3. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approx. 4-5 minutes.
  4. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl, and then oil it well.  
  5. Return the dough to the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approx 50-55 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
  6. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  7. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with veggie oil.  Set aside.
  8. Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan.
  9. In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces.  
  10. Roll each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope.  Make your pretzels:  Make a U-Shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel.  Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.
  11. Place the pretzels, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds into the boiling water.  Remove them from the water by using a large flat spatula.  
  12. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt.
  13. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approx. 12-14 minutes.
  14. Transfer to a cooling rack to cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup... in Summer

The weather in the Twin Cities has been gorgeous.  No clouds, bright sun, blue skies, breezy and in the 80's.  I've been spoiled so far with some time to ride my bike and explore routes I'd never traveled.  Yesterday, I went on a longer bike ride through both St. Paul and Minneapolis.  

I parked my car at school and made my way through so many awesome places I had never seen before.  The route took me through Como (around the lake, past the zoo and conservatory and by ComoTown), through the MN State Fairgrounds, through the U's St. Paul campus, then, via the intercampus transitway, through the U's MPLS campus.  I passed through Dinkytown and made my way to the Stone Arch Bridge where I saw a beautiful view of the city skyline. 

Then I continued on the path by the river until I turned into the city and drove down 1st Avenue North during the lunch hours.  So many people were out eating lunch and getting excited for the evening's Twins game.  I was ever so impressed with the bike lanes inside the city.  No one gets in your way!  (Not so impressive was the fact that I hit every single red light on that 1-mile long stretch.)  I eventually turned on 11th (yep, I got stuck at 11 red lights) and merged onto the Cedar Lake Trail which passes the new Twins stadium.  I was impressed with both.  The stadium is great (though it can't beat PNC Park) and the trail was so secluded and calm.  The running trail was recently voted best place to run by City Pages.   

Yep, still going... I made my way to Lake of the Isles.  Oh my goodness!  What do people do for a living over there?  The houses were beautiful and right inside the city limits.  It reminded me of Lake Minnetonka, but you could still see the city skyline!  Then, I made my way around Lake Calhoun (super crowded), Lake Harriett (slightly less crowded, but I met a lovely elderly biker friend and contemplated buying mini-doughnuts and ice cream (I had missed lunchtime)), down the Minnehaha Parkway (where I flipped on my bike and didn't unclip in time.  I'm ok; just some bumps and a bruised ego), around Lake Nokomis, past the Minnehaha Falls, across the bridge where Ron and I got engaged, onto Mt. Curve Blvd (more beautiful houses), on Mississippi River Blvd, and finally, back on Summit to head to my car at Mitchell.

Phew.  That was a long explanation.  But, the bike ride was amazing.  Despite the fact that my route directions were so small that I couldn't read them.  And, despite the fact that I got lost several, several times so that my 36 mile bike ride actually clocked out to 50+ miles.  And, despite the fact that I have a wicked sunburn going on (I wore a short sleeve bike jersey, so my sunburn starts mid-arm, stops at my watch, and starts back up again on my hands).  And, despite the fact that I flipped my bike and got pretty hurt (I was hungry and didn't bring enough food to fuel so I nearly fainted; thank goodness for caribou coffee multigrain bagels and the $2 I had with me), the bike ride was an amazing success.  I can't wait for out-of-towners to visit so I can take them on this ride.  It is honestly the best possible way to tour the cities!  Fantastic eateries along the way.  Beautiful scenery and a ton of fun!  I was cruising at a leisurely pace.  Anyone could do this bike ride!

So, it's odd that with such plentiful sunshine, I was craving a winter-based comfort food.  Yep, I wanted soup.  I had checked out a recipe for a Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup a few months ago.  And, I've been thinking about it ever since.  So, I made it.  And, I'm glad I did.  Ron wasn't too thrilled about the fact that I made soup, but he ate it, and judging by the "spoon scraping an empty bowl" coming from the other room, I knew he was happy.  He said it was delicious and I agreed.  It was kind of a mix of fall flavors fused with Mexican.  I adapted it slightly from the recipe below.  It made a small batch.  Next time, I'd probably add more broth to make it more soupy.  

Keep this in your to-make recipe file for the winter months.  Maybe plan on it for late October :)

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 x sweet potato, chopped and peeled
  • 1 roasted red pepper, chopped (can use jarred)
  • 1-2 cans vegetable broth, 14 ounce cans
    • I used 1 can, but next time, would probably use about 1.5-2.  Add more as needed to suit your preference.
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can southwestern style corn
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1/2 T chili powder
  • 1 t cumin
  • sprinkle red pepper
  • salt and pepper, cheese, guac, tortilla strips, optional
  1. Heat T olive oil in large soup pot on M-M/H heat.
  2. Saute onion until translucent.
  3. Add 2 cloves garlic and saute until fragrant.
  4. Stir in sweet potato and red pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add vegetable broth, water, beans, corn, and tomatoes.  Stir.
  6. Add spices:  chili powder, cumin, red pepper.  Stir.
  7. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
  8. Serve warm with optional toppings.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Chicken Parmesan Burgers

Well, WOW.  These were pretty incredible and we will definitely be added them to the repeating rotation of recipes.  Even better, these totally satisfied my craving for a burger.  They are so quick and easy to make and delicious!  I saw them make the rounds on the food blogs a few months ago.  Then, a fancy version appeared in a recent edition of Bon Appetit.  However, I decided to settle on a recipe that I saw on Annie's Eats which basically just used store-bought bread crumbs (as opposed to making your own).  

This was actually my 2nd attempt at making them.  My 1st attempt was me trying to be cute.  I added my own ingredients and tried to pan-fry them on what apparently was too high of a heat source.  Clearly... CLEARLY, I am not at that level yet of just doing my own thing with a recipe.  My "burgers" were more like blackened rock patties that would be inedible by a dog's standards.  Fortunately, attempt #2 turned out just perfectly.  I used our oven's broiler for the first time and it worked superbly.

I used ground chicken breast (Smart Chicken brand) for our chicken to keep them fairly healthy.  My 1st attempt used ground chicken thighs.  Take it as you will, but I'll likely use chicken breast from here on out.  These can be served on buns or individual ciabatta rolls.  I'd suggest toasting the bread and making some garlic toast to serve the burgers on.  YUM!
Chicken Parmesan Burgers
adapted from Annie's Eats who adapted from Ella Says Opa
Yield:  4 servings 
  • 1 lb ground chicken
  • 1/4 c grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp italian seasoning
  • 3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 shallot, finely diced (I did not use)
  • salt and papper
  • pasta sauce
  • mozzarella or provolone cheese (sliced or shredded)
  • sauteed mushrooms (optional)
  • hamburger buns
  • garlic powder (optional)
  1. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the burgers.
  2. Mix well until thoroughly combined.
  3. Form the mixture into 4 patties.
  4. Refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
  5. Preheat the broiler.
  6. Cook patties through according to your broiler.
    1. Our broiler is inside the oven.  I placed our patties on a cooking sheet lined with aluminum foil and cooked for 9 minutes, then flipped and cooked for an additional 5 before moving to the next step.  They were cooked well and the oven temp was about 450 degrees.
  7. Remove from the oven, top each burger with pasta sauce and cheese.
  8. Place back under the broiler for 30-60 seconds until the cheese is melted.
  9. Optional step:  Spray buns/bread with cooking spray and sprinkle garlic powder on top.  Put in broiler to toast for 1-2 minutes.
  10. Take burgers out and top with sauteed mushrooms if desired, and serve on hamburger buns.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Take a Hike Scones

In March, Ron and I took a mini-vacay to Chicago-land.  You may remember that we stopped at the amazing Bleeding Heart Bakery and I indulged in one of their famous Take a Hike scones.  I've been dreaming about this scone ever since we got back, so I decided it was time to do a google search and recreate this bad boy.  I was delighted to see that Michelle had given the recipe to a newspaper at some point.  In mere minutes, I had made up a grocery list to pick up what I needed.  To my delight, I realized I had everything in the kitchen!  I decided to make them with whole wheat flour instead of AP.  Also, I am not a vegan, so I decided just to substitute the vegan margarine and soy milk with what I had on hand.  The original ingredients are listed from the link below.

These scones were hanging out in the kitchen for my mom's recent visit.  We definitely ate our fair share of them.  They are SO, SO good.  They are just so hearty and have such an "earthy" texture.  Grains, oats, fruits, nuts.  What else could you ask for?  This recipe made so many that I ended up cutting them in half and putting a bunch in the freezer.  They are perfect to fuel me for long bike rides and I feel much better about eating something home made as opposed to commercially bought.  

However, I do have to admit that my scones did not taste as good as the scone I bought back in March from the bakery.  Truthfully, it doesn't matter if you have an original recipe.  I'm convinced that everything tastes better when it's made in its home kitchen with its original chef.  That being said, these scones will hold me over while I live in Minneapolis.  However, I plan to make frequent trips to Bleeding Heart once we live in Chi-town.  Thank you, Bleeding Heart, for coming up with such a delicious, hearty recipe!!  Yum!
Take a Hike Scones
adapted from Bleeding Heart Bakery per We Gotta Eat
Yield:  8-9 scones (or 16 if you cut in half)
  • 8 oz butter
  • 2.5 c WW flour
  • 2/3 c organic light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp baking power
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1.5 c old fashioned rolled oats
  • 3/4 c dried fruit, cut into small dice (use any combination, but I used apricots, dates and apples)
  • 1/4 c pumpkin seeds
  • 4 tbsp flaxseeds
  • 3/4 c buttermilk
  1. Cut the butter into chunks and freeze for a minimum of 1 hr.
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking power and baking soda.  
  3. Mix in the oats.
  4. Cut the frozen butter into the dry ingredients until pea size chunks are left (I used a pastry blender).
  5. Briefly mix in the dried fruits, pumpkin seeds and flaxseeds.
  6. Add buttermilk.  (Mixture will look soggy, but keep mixing until it reaches a thick, oatmeal-like consistency and isn't runny.)
  7. Scoop the dough onto a lightly floured surface.
  8. Pull the dough together and roll into a thickness of 1 1/2 inches.
  9. Cut out scones with a 2 1/2 inch round cutter.  
  10. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for 25-28 minutes at 375 degrees.  (Note:  scones will puff up and crack on the top.)
  11. Cool completely.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

WW Linguine with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto and Chicken

Sigh.  I wish I could make decisions with ease.  I struggle when it comes to figuring out what to do.  Especially if I've already committed to something and need to decide if to back out.  I'm not a big fan of saying I am going to do something and then not doing it.  So, when I had to make a difficult decision the other day, it was not an easy one.

The end result?  I cancelled our upcoming hotel reservations for the  Lawrence 70.3 and decided to postpone the race.  The ultimate reason:  I am not prepared to participate in the event at this point in time; not prepared physically, emotionally or mentally.  In hindsight, it was completely ridiculous to sign up for it w/o having more knowledge and base training under my belt.  Also, for some reason, I thought it was only a 5 hour drive away (it's 8!).  I also thought that my new bike saddle would miraculously clear away all of my old saddle issues.  To date, it hasn't; I've only biked 35 miles so far without serious pain, far from the 56 needed for the race.

Truthfully, driving to Lawrence for the weekend would've been a serious pain in the butt (pun intended).  Basically, the weekend's schedule would've come down to 48 hours of pure anarchy.  We would leave around 6pm on Friday to drive 8 hours to hotel.  At some point, we'd sleep because we'd have to arrive to set up my bike around 10am the next day.  Then, I'd spend the day familiarizing myself with the course and at the expo.  Then, we'd head back to hotel to sit there, not even seeing KU.  5am Sunday, I'd wake up for the event.  7+ or so hours later, we'd climb back in the car (after swimming 1.2 miles in dirty lake, biking 56 miles through Kansas hills and running 13.1 miles, presumably w/o a tornado touching down) and drive 8 hours back to MN.  My butt would have been on fire and I highly doubt I would have been able to shower.  It would have been an absolute disaster.  

Sigh.  It was still a difficult decision to make.  I have a mixed amount of emotion right now.  I don't like throwing in the towel, but I also don't like wreaking havoc on my body and suffering the consequences.  If anything, I've learned that I need to be smart about my training and patient with my body.  I'm not an endurance athlete, I never will be and I need to remember that.  Onto the next goal, but for now, I'm going to take some time to enjoy exercise w/o "having to do X amount of miles."  I need a break from structure, schedules and lists!

So, to drown my disappointment in myself, I decided to make a quick and yummy meal.  I made it relatively healthy (which is a good thing, because I've gained weight, so expect to see "healthy" meals on here for the next few weeks) and it turned out to be delicious.  I'm a big fan of artichokes.  Artichokes are an amazing source of antioxidants and they have tons of nutritional benefits.  (Side note:  Ron also enjoyed the artichokes.  Granted, I think he would've preferred to see them mixed with spinach, smothered in cream cheese and sour cream, and in the form of a dip, but he ate them and he liked them!) I had cooked and shredded my chicken earlier in the day, so the total meal time for me was about 20 minutes (including boiling water time).  Buy some pre-cooked chicken at the grocery store counter and this will be on your table in no time!
WW Linguine with Sun Dried Tomato Pesto and Chicken
adapted from Perrys' Plate
Yield:  4 servings
  • 8 oz WW linguine
  • 1.5 c cooked, shredded (or cubed) chicken breast
  • 1 c artichoke hearts (chopped)
  • 2 c chopped spinach (about 3 big handfuls)
  • 1/3 c sun-dried tomato pesto (I just used store-bought)
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • 2 oz feta cheese (I used a FF blend with sun dried tomato flavoring, goat cheese can also be used)
  • salt and pepper
  • pine nuts, optional
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions to al dente.
  2. Drain pasta; reserve 1 C of pasta water.
  3. Place pasta in bowl.
  4. Add remaining ingredients and stir until the pasta is coated evenly with the sauce and the spinach has wilted.  
  5. If needed, add reserved pasta water by the tablespoon.  (Note:  Only add if needed.  Pasta should not be watery.)
  6. Sprinkle with some additional feta cheese and pine nuts.  Serve warm!  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Apple Cinnamon Granola

It's been a long time since I posted.  Sorry about that!  I haven't spent much time inside and in the kitchen over the past week or so.  Instead, I've been outside!  I have made some small things here and there, but nothing worth posting.  However, I am back at it and hoping to post some good recipes.  (The few times I have been in the kitchen have been slight failures, by my standards.)

This is, by far, my favorite homemade granola recipe.  I've made it several times now and it is just really, really, REALLY good.  I always pick up the ingredients at the bulk section in the grocery store.  I love the 'heart healthy mix' of walnuts, pecans, almonds, etc. because they have less sodium than the jarred containers.  This recipe uses applesauce instead of oil (I lie; there is 1 tbsp of oil, but unless you are eating the entire batch, I don't think it should have too much of an impact) but it does not fall short.  I added some flax seeds to the recipe, but these can easily be left out.  Also, I HIGHLY recommend added dried apple pieces to the granola.  You'll be sorry if you don't!
Applesauce and Apple Granola
adapted from Fake Ginger

  • 2 1/2 cups old fashioned oats 
  • 1 cup nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds) 
  • 1/2 cup sunflower seeds 
  • 1/4 cup flax seeds (or sesame seeds)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce 
  • 1 tablespoon honey 
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 2/3 cup chopped, dried apple
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together oats, nuts, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, brown sugar, cinnamon, and salt.  Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, warm the applesauce with the honey and oil over low heat.
  4. Mix the applesauce mixture into the oat mixture and stir to coat everything.  Spread the mixture onto a 9 x 13 baking pan.
  5. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until the granola is a deep brown.
  6. Remove from oven and stir in raisins. Cool completely before enjoying.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Coconut Chicken and Curried Coconut Wild Rice with Peppers and Dried Fruit

Finals are done.  Thank goodness.  I honestly don't know how I made it through this semester.  I know that my grades are going to reflect how I was personally feeling over the past few months, but I've decided just to accept this.  A person can't force themselves to feel better or to snap out of it.  Nor can a person force their brain to  learn/comprehend anything that it doesn't want to comprehend.  I just hope that I don't get penalized too badly for my efforts this semester.  I tried; I really did.  Not only that, but I've realized that I struggle during the spring semester.  I struggled last year, I struggled this year.  Hopefully, I can adjust next year's spring term to be a bit more exciting so I don't feel like I am constantly trudging through mud piles.

Enough of that.  Let's talk about this meal!  Wow!  It was amazing.  I made this last week when Ron was in Seattle.  It began as a simple rice meal.  I initially began by mixing up the rice and eating it separately for lunch, then dinner, then lunch again.  (The recipe said it yielded 2 servings, but I think they may have been referring to elephant servings.)  Then I realized that I had leftover coconut milk to use, was sick of eating just rice, and I decided it might be worth it to add some type of protein with the rice.  So, I looked on the Thai Kitchen website and found a recipe for some coconut chicken.  I omitted the peppers from the original chicken recipe because there was so much in the rice.

This was delicious.  It also tasted very ethnic so I felt like I was branching out from my comfortable zone.  I'm starting to like the taste of thai food!  I may have to start searching for a decent Thai restaurant in the Twin Cities to see how my cooking is living up to the hype.  I definitely suggest checking this recipe out.  It takes a bit to prepare and there might be more hands-on time than that involved with a quick week-day meal, but it is very much worth it.
Coconut Chicken and Curried Coconut Wild Rice
adapted from Anja's Food for Thought and Thai Kitchen
Yield:  Rice (about 4-5 large servings) & Chicken (4)
For Rice:

  • 1 c brown rice (uncooked)
  • 1 c water
  • 1 c coconut milk (I used RF)
  • 1/2 c dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/2 c dried cranberries (or raisins, currants or cherries)
  • 1/2 c slivered almonds
  • 1/4 c coconut flakes (unsweetened)
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Bell peppers:  1 each of red, green, yellow / chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp grated orange peel
  • 1 tsp grated lime peel
  • salt and pepper

For Chicken:

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • bell peppers:  1 each of red and green / chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 can (14 fl. oz) coconut milk
    • I only used about 1/2 can (whatever was leftover from my coconut rice)
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (more or less depending on spice preference)

For Rice:

  1. Place brown rice, water and coconut milk in a pan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and rice in tender.  (This will depend on the rice you are using, anywhere from 30-45 minutes.)  Set aside.
  2. In the meantime, combine the chopped dried fruit in a bowl.  Pour bowling water over the fruit and let it stand for 15 minutes or until the fruit is plump.  Drain and set aside.
  3. Toast the slivered almonds in a dry pan over medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until slightly browned.  Set aside.
  4. In a deep, heavy bottomed bowl, heat the oil and cook the onions and bell peppers.  Keep stirring.  When onions are softened (about 5 minutes), reduce the heat to medium.  Add the ginger, garlic, spices, orange and lime peel and cook for about 1 minute.  Stir in the cooked rice, dried fruit, almonds and coconut flakes.  Cook for another 5 minutes.

For Chicken:

  1. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet.  Lightly brown the chicken on both sides in hot oil, about 3-5 minutes per side.
  3. Remove chicken from skillet and set aside.
  4. In same skillet, saute onions, peppers and garlic until onions are translucent, 5-8 minutes.
  5. Stir in coconut milk and red pepper flakes.  Simmer for 5 minutes over medium heat.
  6. Return chicken to pan, spoon sauce and veggies over chicken and continue to cook, uncovered over medium heat for 20-30 minutes longer or until chicken is cooked through and veggies are tender.
  7. Serve with curried rice (or you can use just regular Thai rice).

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Cinnamon Apple and Oatmeal Bread

For the past several years, my life has been controlled by my lists.  It started when I had a job that required me to do 50 things at once and I couldn't keep track of everything.  Eventually, it carried over into personal aspects of my life and now my lists are in full-swing now that I am in school again.  It was always satisfying to cross something off of my list, but sometimes, it gets really annoying when I don't get something done.  Take this bread, for instance.  Several months ago, I wrote down that I wanted to make it (it comes from an amazing food blog), and it has been nagging me ever since.

So, I'm happy to say that I was able to cross this off of my list last night.  After a loooonnnggg day, I wanted to get into zen mode.  So after my neighbors went to bed and ended whatever circus they were having downstairs, I decided to whip this up.  Granted, it was 10:30 at night, but I put on some classical music and there we go.  Wow, baking at night is awesome!  What a way to calm down and relax.  Plus, it gives you something delicious to wake up to for breakfast.

I made some changes to the recipe to keep the nutritional stats down.  I often do this when I have an inkling that I am going to really enjoy something.  If I don't, I'll end up eating the entire thing.  This way, I can eat larger than normal portions and not feel as terrible about it.  Despite the changes that I made (listed below with the original recipe so you can see what I did), this bread did NOT fall short.  I could not taste the difference (then again, I haven't made the 'real' version) and it is incredible.  I love the taste of baked apples inside the bread and the cinnamon is just enough spice to add a ton of flavor (though, I might try experimenting with some ginger or nutmeg, etc).  I used buckwheat flour, which is distinctively nutty, and it paired so well with the spice and nuts in the bread.  This will definitely be added to my rotating quick-bread list.

P.S. I could not get a decent picture of this bread.
Cinnamon Apple and Oatmeal Bread
adapted from Closet Cooking
Yield:  One 9x5 loaf
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/4 c maple syrup
    • Or substitute with 1/4 c honey or agave nectar
      • (I used a SF maple syrup blend)
  • 3/4 c vanilla yogurt
    • (I used 1 carton of Dannon's light and fit toasted coconut yogurt; that's what I had)
  • 1/4 c apple sauce
    • (I used 1 carton (about 1/2 c) of unsweetened applesauce and omitted the oil)
  • 1/4 c oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c rolled oats
  • 1 c WW flour
  • 3/4 c AP flour
    • (I used buckwheat flour)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 c apples (peeled, cored and cut into bite sized pieces)
    • (I used 2 medium sized pink lady apples)
  • 1/2 c raisins
    • (I left out of my bread)
  • 1/2 c pecan (chopped)
    • (I used chopped walnuts)
  • 1 handful rolled oats
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Mix the brown sugar, syrup, yogurt, apple sauce, oil, egg and rolled oats in a bowl.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
  3. Mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl.
  4. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together.  Mix in apples, raisins and nuts until just mixed.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the greased loaf pan.
  6. Sprinkle oats on top.
  7. Bake in preheated oven at 375F until a toothpick pushing into the center comes out clean, about 40-45 minutes.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WW Linguine with Garlic Steamed Asparagus and Pine Nuts

I haven't posted anything lately.  I've been making stuff, but not everything has been turning out so well.  I think I've finally learned my lesson.  Despite how much I love cooking and baking, I simply can't do anything that involves a lot of brain activity around finals.  It's pointless.  My mind is on other things and it almost always ends up bad.  In the past few days, I have burnt a banana bread, burnt chocolate chip cookies and nearly burnt my house down with a pizza disaster gone awry.  So, I've decided to keep it to easy things.  Despite my simple recipe attempts, this did not stop the asparagus in this meal from smoking up the place!  It's my fault, I had the burner on super high.  Oops.

Ron's been in Seattle for business, so it's just been me at the house.  I've been trying to make some healthy dinners, but ones that are individual servings.  During finals, I also find that I have a problem with leftovers.  A few weeks ago, I ordered the Perfetto Pasta Cooker.  I saw it in the Clean Eating magazine and did some research.  It came highly recommended, so I did some searching and found one for $10.  I ordered it, it arrived, it sat until I decided I finally wanted pasta.  Wow, it is pretty damn nifty!!

Granted, I probably didn't need to spend $10 on this little tube, but it's pretty damn incredible.  I don't have to dirty dishes.  I don't have to bring out a separate strainer.  I don't have to keep stirring.  What I do have to do is boil some water, pour it in the tube, stick in the pasta and let it sit for about 16 minutes (it takes a bit longer than conventional pasta).  I left my WW linguine in the cooker for about 17 minutes and it was cooked perfectly!  Even better?  It comes with this tiny little measuring thing so I could ensure that I was only eating one serving of pasta.

I decided to serve this up with some pan fried asparagus and pine nuts.  Overall, the meal was really good.  The asparagus got burnt, but I actually kind of like that crunchy taste.
WW Linguine with Garlic Steamed Asparagus and Pine Nuts
Yield:  1 serving
  • 1 serving (2 oz) of linguine or spaghetti noodles
  • Water & salt for pasta
  • Asparagus (as much as you want)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp chopped red onion
  • shredded parmesan cheese
  1. For Pasta:  Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  2. For Asparagus:  Heat olive oil, water, garlic and asparagus in saute pan over medium-high heat.  Cook for about 2 minutes or until most of the liquid is gone.  Stir.  Cover with lid and cook for another minute.  Remove lid and stir.  Cover and repeat until asparagus are crisp tender, about 5 minutes.
  3. For Assembly:  Place pasta on serving dish.  Add asparagus; toss to combine.  Sprinkle pine nuts, onion and cheese over dish.  Season with salt and pepper.