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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Butterbeer and Treacle Tart

Exciting news!  I am celebrating my one-year blog-oversary this week.  It is also Halloween weekend.  AND, most importantly, it is also the start of a very exciting month in my life.  In a few short weeks, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One will be in movie theaters.  And, Ron and I will be venturing down to Orlando and spending time in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.  I'm not gonna lie.  I am flippin' ECSTATIC.  What better a way to celebrate a one-year blog-oversary with goodies from Jo Rowling's beautiful world.
Like millions of others, I am a Harry Potter fan.  Some of my family members call me "obsessed" but considering I have never actually attended a Harry Potter convention, I feel that this takes me out of the "obsessive" category.  Sure, I have a wand and I often cast spells with it.  Who doesn't?  I have a small miniature Hedwig that sits in my office next to my small little Buckbeak.  And yes, I have attended Wizard parties.  I sport my Gryffindor scarf with pride.  And, I have attended midnight-release parties to obtain a newly-released HP book.  And, of course I have blown through the books as fast as possible (book 7 was in my hands at 12:15 a.m. and was read through the night and finished at 11:12 a.m. the next day - SPOILER ALERT - with one moment to pause and ball my eyes out around page 60 after Hedwig died - not to mention the many more moments I had to cry when, well... countless others died in the bloodbath that is the end of this epic series).  And, yes, I reread the entire series, from book one to book seven, once a year (it is the absolute best time of the year!) and am constantly amazed by the detail and the brilliance that is Jo Rowling and her imagination.

And, sure, I lined up outside of the bookstore recently to purchase the film wizardry book (even though there was no line) before anyone else did.  And, I've definitely read The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quidditch Through the Ages about as many times as I've read the entire series.  And, I do check my favorite HP fan sights on a daily basis and squeal with delight when I find another fan so immersed in this world.  And, I literally watch a HP movie at least two or three times a month.  And, I have consistently booked my HP movie tickets weeks in advance to secure a 12:01 a.m. showing (November 19 cannot come soon enough!).  And yes, I did sink into deep despair when I was not at the opening of the Wizarding Park this past June (don't worry; I was relieved once I saw the lines).  And yes, I have had a countdown going until the day Ron and I arrive at the Wizarding Park (24 days left!!!).

But, I am not obsessed.  And until now, I have never tried my hand at making my own Harry Potter treats.  I don't know why this is.  But in spirit of my upcoming one year blog-oversary, I've decided to do something special and celebrate the magic that Harry Potter as brought to my life.  It saddens me when people say they don't like Harry Potter, but I have gotten past the jokes when someone questions my sanity over Harry.  The thing is, everyone has their own thing that makes them happy.  Mine is Harry Potter.  Yes, I do sink into a small bout of sadness when anything HP ends, but how could you not?  Harry Potter has been a part of my life for a very, very, very long time.  The books have given me something to look forward to and a place to travel when I want to enter another world.  They have inspired me to enjoy reading and to use my imagination and creativity.  And the movies?  Well, they just give me a few short hours to dive into a magical and whimsical universe that takes my mind away from the struggles of reality.  Everyone needs something.  And my thing is Harry Potter.

Oh yeah, about the recipes.  Even if you don't like Harry Potter, this treacle tart was interesting enough to be quite tasty.  It's very sweet and similar to a pecan pie, but the consistency is much different.  Treacle tart is, in fact, Harry Potter's favorite dessert and he is often quoted as eating it in the books.  In Half-Blood Prince, the treacle tart is what he smells around the "most powerful love potion in the world."  I was actually very surprised at how prominent the lemon taste was in this recipe.  I also cheated and used a pre-made pie shell.  And the Butterbeer?  Butterbeer is the popular drink choice among young wizards.  It tastes very similar to a butterscotch and has a sweet and salty combination (but it has enough alcohol in it to get house elves drunk).  This glass was so sweet that it could probably give an elephant a sugar high.  It is definitely for sipping only.  I was pretty bummed that my glasses didn't have the authentic butterbeer color (I didn't add enough of the brown sugar mixture) but it was fun to make.  And, we'll be able to try the authentic Jo Rowling butterbeer recipe in a few weeks, so for now, this will do. :)
Butterbeer and a few other sources such as Mugglenet.Com and The Leaky Cauldron
Yield:  4 servings
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream, divided
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract
  • Four 12-ounces bottles cream soda
  1. In a small saucepan over medium, combine the brown sugar and water.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook, stirring often, until the mixture reads 240F on a candy thermometer.
  2. Stir in the butter, salt, vinegar and 1/4 cup heavy cream.  Set aside to cool to room temperature.
  3. Once the mixture has cooled, stir in rum extract.
  4. In a medium bowl, combine 2 tbsp of brown sugar and remaining 1/2 cup of heavy cream.  Use an electric mixer to beat until just thickened, but not completely whipped, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. To serve, divide the brown sugar mixture between 4 tall glasses (about 1/4 cup for each glass).  Add 1/4 cup of cream soda to each glass, then stir to combine.  Fill each glass nearly to the top with additional cream soda, then spoon the whipped topping over each.
Treacle Tart
Yield:  1 tart, about 8 servings
  • 1 unbaked pie shell for single crust, 8-inch pie
  • 1 cup Lyle's golden syrup
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups dry bread crumbs
  • Lemon rind of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • Juice of half a lemon (about 1 T)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In heavy saucepan, lightly warm the syrup to make it easier to incorporate the other ingredients.  Keep a close watch on this as it can be easy to overheat.  Add crumbs, lemon rind and juice.  Mix well.
  3. Pour filling into unbaked crust.  Smooth the filling and decorate top with extra pieces of crust (in the shape of Harry's scar!), or a lattice top.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes, until crust begins to brown.
  4. Cool before cutting.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Harvest Pancakes

Perhaps the most profound and positive change that has occurred in my life since moving to the Twin Cities has been the quality of my diet.  Shortly before we left Pittsburgh, I started to heavily focus on where I was buying my ingredients, how food was being prepared, what restaurants Ron and I ate lunch and dinner, how many additives were in certain packaged products, etc.  After we moved, we started frequenting farmers markets and buying an abundance of fresh produce.  And, my life changed drastically after I spent a semester writing a paper that involved significant research of the Food and Drug Administration.  Without getting all "Food, Inc." on you, I can honestly tell you this, it is highly worth it to pay attention to the food you ingest, how and where your food is being purchased.  And, if you eat meat, it is absolutely worth it to pay the extra money to support local farmers who practice humane animal treatment.

So, why am I telling you all of this?  A few years ago, I ate a pancake breakfast at a chain restaurant and it was so delicious.  Shortly after, I was devastated to learn of the countless acts of inhumane farming practices that supplied such chain restaurant with its food, as well as several other chain restaurants.  Granted, I do eat meat, but I take the "Wayne Pacelle" approach to meat-eating.  And since then, I have vowed not to eat meat unless I know and approve of how it has been prepared.  This might offend certain friends and family members at dinner parties (don't worry; I am discrete), but this is an area that I feel very, very strongly and passionate about.  After the paper I wrote and the details I learned, I simply cannot ignore this issue because ignorance is not bliss in this situation.

So anyway, sorry about that, but had to say it.  I vowed to find a pancake recipe that mimicked this delicious pancake from chain-restaurant-that-shall-not-be-named.  And, I've finally found it.  The nutty and grainy texture in this pancake are so good and a small serving will keep you full for hours!  Serve along side some fruit and you have a healthy and amazing breakfast.
Harvest Pancakes
Food Elmundo
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 3/4 cup nuts - almonds, pecans, or walnuts (or mixed)
  • 1 cup WW flour
  • 2 Tbsp flaxseed meal
  • 1 Tbsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk, shaken
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  1. With a food processor, grind quick cooking oats and nuts to a pulse, crumbly mixture.
  2. Combine oat and nut crumbs with flour, flaxseed meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, eggs, and oil until blended.
  4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Spoon 1/4 cup mixture onto a preheated (medium to medium-low) griddle or pan sprayed with cooking spray.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ricotta Cheese Cookies - Week Four

For week four of 12 weeks of holiday cookies, I made up ricotta cheese cookies.  These are one of Ron's favorite cookies.  A few years ago, he mentioned that his mom used to make them around the holidays.  Until that time, I had never heard of ricotta cheese cookies, let alone putting any kind of cheese in a cookie.  For the holidays that year, I got the recipe from his mom and ended up whipping up a batch.  For some reason, I fell asleep and left them sitting out all night.  Put that in the What was I thinking category.  I woke up the next day realizing that they were hard as rocks.  Thankfully, Ron's family was kind enough to look passed my mistake and the cookies were enjoyed by all.

I couldn't find the original recipe I made, but I did find another recipe in my giant cookie recipe book.  These cookies are delicious.  If you put them away within a few hours of baking (and don't leave them out for an entire night), they are still so delicious and moist the next day.  If you've never had them, I would describe them as a lighter and fluffier sugar cookie.  I cut this recipe in half, but it still made over 2 dozen cookies.  This recipe makes a lot so factor that into your baking.  And, sadly I couldn't find my multi-colored sprinkles, so there's a mixture of Independence Day and Christmas colors on those racks :)
Ricotta Cheese Cookies
Good Housekeeping Favorite Recipes: Cookies!
Yield:  About 72 cookies (don't worry - they freeze well!)
  • 1 cup margarine or butter (2 sticks) softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 container (15 ounces) ricotta cheese
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 cups AP flour
  • 2 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 3 Tbsp milk
  • colored sugar crystals
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In large bowl, beat butter and granulated sugar until blended - light and fluffy.
  3. Beat in ricotta, vanilla, and eggs until well combined.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, and salt; beat/stir until dough forms.
  5. Drop dough by level tablespoons, about 2 inches apart, on ungreased cookie sheet.
  6. Bake until cookies are very lightly golden, about 15 minutes (they will be soft).
  7. With spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack to cool.  Repeat with remaining dough.
  8. When cookies are cool, prepare icing: in small bowl, whisk confectioners' sugar and milk until smooth.  With small spatula, knife, or dip method, spread icing on cookies; sprinkle with colored sugar crystals.
  9. Set aside on wire rack until icing is completely dry, about 1 hour.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Butternut Squash Couscous Salad

You could easily call this recipe Fall in One Mouthful.  Seriously, it's so deliciously on point with the flavors of fall and this time of year.

I absolutely loved the flavors in this dish.  I love the colors too!  I used a tri-color couscous which made the dish even prettier, but you can easily make it with a regular couscous or WW couscous.  I ate this on the side of some maple-glazed salmon (recipe is coming later this week).  Then, I also ate it for lunch the next day and for dinner that night.  So good.  This is definitely a side dish to consider for your Thanksgiving spread.

The original recipe called for one can of garbanzo beans, but I left them out.  I also used raisins instead of cranberries and added about 1/2 cup of pecans.  If you are looking for a cheese, I would think that some goat cheese would taste very good in the salad.
Butternut Squash Couscous Salad
adapted from Erin's Food Files
Yield:  5 servings
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4-5 Tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Zest of one orange
  • 1/2 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 tsp salt - to taste
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1/2 - 2/3 cup pecans or walnuts, optional
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Toss squash with some olive oil and spread on a baking sheet.  Roast, stirring occasionally, until tender - about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool before combining with other ingredients.
  2. Cook couscous according to package directions (normally this involves bringing 1 cup of water, some salt and olive oil (optional) to boil, stirring in the couscous, covering the pot, removing the pot and letting sit for about 4-5 minutes).  Once cooked, fluff with a fork and set aside.
  3. Saute onion in a skillet over Medium-High heat until translucent.  Set aside and cool.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, olive oil, zest, spices, and 1/2 - 1 tsp salt.
  5. In a large bowl, combine squash, couscous, onions, raisins, and nuts.
  6. Pour in the vinegar-oil dressing and stir to combine.
  7. Check seasoning and add more salt if needed.  Can be served at room temperature or cold.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pasta Fagioli

The other day, I was at the grocery store searching for some fresh cranberry beans to make a pasta fagioli.  I had found a recipe I really wanted to try and was eager to pick up the beans.  I was literally squatting down as far as I could to get a look at the beans (dry beans are on the bottom of the shelves) when a kind person who worked for the grocery store approached me with a cautious eye and asked if I needed assistance.  "Cranberry beans?" he asked.  "No, I've never even heard of them."

I really wanted to tell him that they weren't absolutely necessary - that I could use any bean without a problem - but he seemed eager to help in this search.  He radioed for a number of his fellow co-workers to come over.  They even called other stores and logged online.  Twenty minutes, and a long discussion later, we had no found any cranberry beans, but I had spotted a lovely jar of Eden Organic Aduki Beans.  I'd never heard of them, but I was interested in trying them.  At that point, I hated the thought of waiting to soak my own beans, so off I left with a jar of pinto beans as well.

Aduki beans.  I had never heard of them until that day.  But, they worked awesome in this recipe.  I have posted other pasta fagioli recipes on my blog in the past, but I'd like to think that the true italians would approve of this recipe the best.  "True" pasta fagioli recipes involve pasta, beans, and cheese.  No veggies.  No meat.  So, this recipe is true (with the exception of the canned ingredients, but oh well).  And, this recipe has become my absolute favorite soup-meal recipe of all time.  It was delicious.  And, when we ran out of pasta (I only used about 7 ounces of pasta), the leftovers were just as good without.

Oddly enough, I've seen aduki beans everywhere since I bought that can.  Perhaps I've never noticed them before?  Or perhaps this is a new trend?  Whatever it is... I've seen aduki bean everything!  Aduki bean corn chips.  Aduki bean rice.  And, I just opened up a small free sample jar from the Body Shop, and it is some type of aduki bean and rice shower gel.  What the...?

Oh, and the picture above?  That's Ron's bowl.  I just had to take a picture of the tomatoes that remained.
Pasta Fagioli
adapted from
  • Small white onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 x (14.5 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 x (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes with garlic, oregano, and basil
  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (use 32 ounce container)
  • 1 Tbsp dried parsley
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 x (14.5 ounce) cans beans: pinto, aduki, kidney (or a mixture), rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 lb. small pasta (such as ditalini or small shells)
  • Garnish:  shredded parmesan or mozzerella cubes
  1. Over medium heat, add some EVOO to a soup pot.  Add onion and cook until lightly translucent.
  2. Stir in garlic for about 30 seconds.
  3. Reduce heat to low-medium and stir in all ingredients except for the pasta and the cheese for garnish.
  4. Cover soup pot with lid sitting ajar and simmer for about one hour.
  5. Shortly before soup is done simmering, bring your water to boil for pasta and cook according to package directions.  After pasta is cooked and has been drained, rinse with cold water.
  6. Put some pasta in bowl, laddle some soup over top, and garnish with shredded or cubed cheese.
  7. Mix in cheese to melt, serve with a small salad or some bread and enjoy!

Friday, October 22, 2010

French Vanilla Ghiradelli Luxe Pretzel Cookies - Week Three

For week three, I was interested in baking a good chocolate chip cookie.  I've baked tons of variations of chocolate chip cookies before.  Nestle's go-to recipe, the famous NY Times recipe, Alton Brown's The Chewie, etc.  The list is endless.  Some are made with nuts.  Some are made with oats.  Some are made with cake flour.  But, one thing remains the same:  flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, sugars, butter, egg, and vanilla.

I was hoping to make more of a savory chocolate chip cookie this time, so when I saw a recipe that appealed to me, I decided to swap out regular vanilla extract with french vanilla extract.  It totally did the trick.  The addition of french vanilla made the house smell delicious and it made the cookies taste incredible.  They were very rich tasting, but the salt from the pretzels made them simply divine.  As always, I cut the recipe in half, but this is the first time that I kind of wish I hadn't.
French Vanilla Ghiradelli Luxe Pretzel Cookies
adapted from Korean American Mommy
Yield:  About 3-4 dozen cookies
  • 1 3/4 cup AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp french vanilla extract (or regular vanilla extract)
  • 2 x 3 oz. Ghiradelli LUXE bars, broken into little pieces
  • 1 cup pretzels, broken into little pieces
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl.
  3. Prepare add-ins:  break up chocolate bar and pretzels into tiny pieces.  Set aside.
  4. Melt butter in microwave.
  5. In large bowl, cream melted butter and sugars together until well blended.
  6. Add egg and vanilla; beat for about 30 seconds.
  7. Slowly add in the flour mixture until combined.
  8. With a rubber spatula, fold in chocolate and pretzel pieces until well combined.
  9. Drop teaspoonfuls (I used my small cookie scoop) of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  10. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8-14 minutes, until cookies are lightly browned on the top and just set.  (Time will vary depending on how big your cookies are and how well your oven works.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Vegetable Curry

Here's another recipe to mix up for a very quick and easy lunch or dinner.  It's packed with flavor, full of healthy ingredients, and the spices definitely kick it up a notch.
From start to finish, I'd say 25 minutes.  Max.  And, there's plenty of leftovers for lunch today!  Serve with rice and sprinkle some nuts on, if you'd like!
Fall Vegetable Curry
from Cooking Light
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup diced peeled sweet potato
  • 1 cup small cauliflower florets
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced yellow onion
  • 2 tsp Madras curry powder (to substitute:  use 1 1/2 tsp curry powder + 1/2 tsp red pepper)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can no-salt added diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup plain reduced-fat Greek yogurt (optional)
  1. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Add sweet potato to pan; saute 3 minutes.
  3. Decrease heat to medium.  
  4. Add cauliflower, onion, and curry powder; cook 1 minute, stirring mixture constantly.
  5. Add broth and next 3 ingredients (through tomatoes); bring to a boil.  
  6. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally.
  7. Sprinkle with cilantro; serve with yogurt to bring the heat down, and eat with rice.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Fudge Brownies

When in doubt, bake brownies.  This is what my facebook status said the other day.  Anybody who was doing their detective work on my page would find that just seconds before I posted my brownie update, I had made an unfortunate comment about the lack of progress I was making in midterm preparations.  Hence, the brownies.  Thank goodness they were still around after the midterm.  Sigh.  When is school going to end?  I miss feeling like a smart person.

Anyway, I entered the kitchen with one thought and one thought only:  comfort food.  I knew I had planned to make brownies the next time I was interested in chocolately, cakey goodness.  And, I knew just the recipe I wanted to try.  The brownie recipe came from a Cooking Light recipe several years ago.  Normally, I'm hesitant to try the C.L. dessert recipes.  Sometimes the recipes can be just the same as other recipes, except they cut the portions into itty bitty bites to cut the nutritional values!  Sneaky, sneaky.  Other times, the recipes come out pretty dry.  And, I wanted a true, fudge cake brownie, not something infused with applesauce and bland tasting.

BUT, this recipe DID NOT taste like a "light" version of a brownie.  It was delicious!  I only used 75% of the sugar the recipe called for and I used espresso instead of instant coffee granules.  WOAH.  I took one bite and was seriously, seriously happy with how these turned out.
Fudge Brownies
adapted from Cooking Light
Yield:  One 9x9 pan of brownies
  • cooking spray
  • 2 Tbsp espresso granules (or instant coffee)
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour (about 6 3/4 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips (or toffee chips)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  (As per usual, mine preheated to about 400, then decreased to about 375.  For the majority of the time, it baked at 375 and was left in for about 20 minutes.)
  2. Coat bottom of 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.
  3. Combine granules and 1/4 cup hot water, stirring until the granules dissolve.
  4. Combine butter and chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute or until butter melts; stir until chocolate is smooth.
  5. Mix flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  6. Combine coffee mixture, butter mixture, vanilla, and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.
  7. Add coffee mixture to flour mixture; stir until just combined.  (Batter will be thick.)
  8. Spread evenly onto a prepared pan and sprinkle evenly with chips.
  9. Bake at 350 for 22 minutes and cool on wire rack.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Banana Nut Granola

My favorite thing about making granola is the fact that it always turns out so well.  I live off of granola, so I normally make a new batch every two weeks.  This recipe didn't come from anywhere, but was more or less compiled with what I had on hand and inspired by my brown bananas that I refused to turn into a bread.  I realized I've been making granola so often that I don't even need measuring cups anymore!  It was super exciting.  Next time, I'll probably mix in some dried banana chips to really make the banana flavors stand out.
Banana Nut Granola
  • 4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce (or canola oil)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 cup of dried bananas or other dried fruit

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Combine oats and nuts in a large bowl.
  3. Mash bananas in a medium bowl.  Add honey, applesauce or oil, cinnamon, salt, and nutmeg.  Beat with a mixer until smooth.  Alternatively, you could probably use an immersion blender (or real blender) to puree.
  4. Pour the wet over the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.
  5. Pour granola on large baking sheet.  Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
  6. Let cool completely.  Once cooled, add additional mix-ins (one cup of banana chips or other dried fruit) if desired.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bombay Sloppy Joe's

First off, I am well aware that it is virtually impossible to take an appetizing photo of a sandwich that is called a sloppy joe.  So, I hope you don't discriminate against this recipe, because it's really good!

I've been wanting to try one of Aarti's recipes since she won the Next Food Network Star this past season.  Unless you watched NFNS, you have no idea what or who I am talking about.  The show aired over the summer and finished several weeks ago.  Aarti, whose "food schtick" is introducing indian flavors to american cuisine, has her own show on Sunday mornings called Aarti Party.  Recently, this recipe ran in the October issue of Food Network magazine and I knew it was time to make something of hers!

Ron has always been a fan of NSSJ's.  At one time, we had several jars of Not So Sloppy Joes in our pantry.  But I must admit that they were never used so they were donated.  I'm not such a fan.  And since I am the one who cooks, I've opted never to make them.  But I decided to try this recipe because I thought the ground turkey, pistachios, raisins, and indian flavors sounded like an interesting combination.  I forgot to season (oops!) so I thought the recipe lacked "something" as I was eating my sandwich.  So, make sure you season!  Salt was a necessity here.  Ron loved these.  He went back for a triple helping (in Ron's defense; he doesn't have time to eat lunch at work, then he works out, so he's a hungry boy) and had nothing but great things to say after he finished off the leftovers the following day.  I didn't see him use salt once!  I left the raisins out of the main batch because he doesn't eat them, but I chose to add a few on my sandwich.  Honestly, raisins totally work in a sandwich.  Overall, this recipe was a success.

Also, I highly recommended that you don't mince chile peppers and ginger, then rub under your nose.  Seriously, my face was burning for a few hours and I am thanking my lucky stars that I didn't rub my eyes first.  Otherwise, I think I would have had an inkling as to how mace feels when it is sprayed on a person's face.  Holy buckets was my nose on fire!

Bombay Sloppy Joes
from Food Network, Aarti 
Yield:  4-6 servings
For the Sauce:
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 serrano chile, seeded and finely minced
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup water
For the Meat:
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup shelled pistachios
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 large white onion
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely diced
  • 1/2 serrano chile, seeds intact (don't chop unless you like spicy!)
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • 1/4 cup half-and-half
  • fresh cilantro
  • 4-6 hamburger buns
  1. Begin by making the sauce:  Warm oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add ginger, garlic and pepper, saute'ing until the ginger and garlic brown.  Add the garam masala and paprika; saute for 30 seconds.  Stir in the tomato sauce and water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, for the turkey, in large skillet, warm some oil.  When shimmering, add pistachios and raisins, cooking until raisins swell and pistachios toast slightly.  Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Return the pan to medium heat, add some more oil and warm.  Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for about 10 seconds.  Stir in the onions and bell pepper; saute until softened and starting to brown.  Add the serrano pepper.  Saute for another few minutes, seasoning with salt.  Stir in the turkey, breaking up the big lumps, and cook until opaque; about 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, your sauce should be ready.  Pour the sauce into the skillet with the turkey.  Stir and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until the mixture has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
  5. Once turkey is cooked and sauce has thickened, remove the serrano pepper.  Add the honey, half-and-half, pistachios and raisins.  Stir through and taste for seasoning.  Before serving, garnish with fresh cilantro.
  6. Toast buns, if desired.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies - Week Two

I'm finding that picking a different cookie recipe to produce for 12 weeks is difficult.  For starters, there are thousands, thousands of cookie recipes out there.  There are hundreds, hundreds of variations of those thousands of cookie recipes.  How do you choose?  Some are easy.  Some are complex.  Some involve interesting ingredients.  Some involve pantry staples.  In order to keep things interesting, I am going to choose a mixture of easy, complex, interesting and old-time favorites for my project.  This week's is an old-time favorite.

Earlier this week, I asked for Ron's input.  Like a little kid, he yelled "PEANUT BUTTER."  Then, for some reason, he added with a scowl, "And make sure you do the little fork indentations."  Ok.  Like there is any other way?  (But apparently in some past cookie baking adventure I forgot to do this and it offended him.)

My sister and I would help my mom bake cookies when we were younger.  I have a vivid memory (perhaps with the help of a few photographs) of sitting on the counter with a fork, a determined look on my face and making the little fork indentations. And although I didn't sit on the counter this time, I can assure you that I had that same determined look on my face as I was doing the little fork indentations.  :)  This is a pretty simple and basic recipe that took about 20 minutes from start to finish (with the prep work complete; softening the butter and letting the egg come to room temp).  Next time you have an inkling for cookies, whip these up!
Peanut Butter Cookies
Southern Cookbook
Yield:  About 3 dozen

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus more for rolling)
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg (room temp)
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups AP flour


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Beat butter and peanut butter in a large bowl until creamy.
  3. Add sugar, brown sugar, baking soda and baking powder.  Beat until well combined.
  4. Beat in the egg and the vanilla until combined.
  5. Beat or stir in the flour until combined.
  6. Roll the dough into 1-inch balls, then roll into granulated sugar.  
  7. Place cookie dough balls on a cookie sheet and make your little fork indentations!
  8. Bake for 7-9 minutes, watching carefully.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vegetable Stir-Fry

Lunch is always a predicament for me.  I'm not big on eating anything too heavy, but I get bored with salads and sandwiches.  So, this stir-fry is absolutely perfect.  It took literally about 5 minutes to prep, taking about 15 minutes total from start to finish.  Add some sliced almonds, sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds, and serve with rice.  You can even add chicken or beef!  Delicious, filling, and ridiculously easy.  I know I promote these often, but if you work, I suggest investing in these individual rice bowls that can be found near in the rice in your grocery store.  You can bring leftover veggies to work, along with an individual Minute rice bowl, and save yourself a lot of money dining out!
Vegetable Stir-Fry
from Swanson
Yield:  4 servings
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 cups cut vegetables (broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, baby carrots, celery, etc.)
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger root or 1/8 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • toasted sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Stir the broth, cornstarch and soy sauce in a small bowl until the mixture is smooth.
  2. Heat the oil in a 10" skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the vegetables, ginger root and garlic and stir-fry until they're tender-crisp.
  3. Add the broth mixture to the skillet.  Cook and stir until the mixture boils and thickens.  Sprinkle with the sesame seeds, if desired.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Allspice Muffins

I've become rather forgetful as of late.  It gets frustrating at times: relying on email reminder messages or daily to-do lists.  I am hoping that once I graduate, this nonsensical habit will stop, but I'm afraid that it will not.  I, and countless others, are too reliant on "reminders" but I have always been strong in the birthday capacity.  I think this is because birthdays are so special to me.  Every one deserves a day where all attention is dedicated to them and pampering is a necessity.

So, imagine my embarrassment when I forgot not one, not two, but THREE birthdays in one week.  This was an unfortunate, depressing feeling.  Forgotten birthday number one was semi-cured with flowers.  Forgotten birthday number two was semi-cured with these muffins.  I was torn between a few different recipes I had been meaning to try, but in the end settled on Dorie Greenspan's Allspice muffins from her cookbook, Baking: From my Home to Yours.  Dorie has never failed me in the past and I was looking for a quick and easy muffin to mix up before heading to school.  One thing that I love about Dorie is that she is not afraid of butter.  This recipe was no different.

I settled on muffins because I was bringing them on a day when I needed to get to school early, so the baking had to take place before I left for the day.  This meant that these muffins were baked at 5:30 a.m. They were fresh.  (All baked goods taste better on the day they are made.)  Even better, I mixed up the streusel the night before so the actual preparation took only 20 minutes.  I didn't have one, but I believe they were received well.  Perhaps the best thing about these muffins was the fact that the house still smelled of baked goodness when I arrived 5 hours later.
Allspice Muffins
Dorie Greenspan:  Baking - from My Home to Yours
Yield:  12 muffins
  • Streusel
    • 1/2 cup AP flour
    • 1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
    • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
    • 5 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • Muffins
    • 2 cups AP flour
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 1 Tbsp baking powder
    • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 1/4 cup (packed) light brown sugar
    • 1 stick (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3/4 cup whole milk
    • 1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract
    • grated zest of 1 lemon (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Prepare muffin tin with either butter, spray, or paper cups.  Place the muffin tin on a baking sheet.
  2. To make the streusel:  Put the flour, brown sugar and allspice in a small bowl and blend.  Add the bits of cold butter, toss to coat, and work the butter into the dry ingredients until you have irregularly shaped crumbs.  Cover and put in refrigerator.
  3. To make the muffins:  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, allspice and salt.  Stir in the brown sugar, making sure there are no lumps.  
  4. In another bowl, whisk the melted butter, eggs, milk and vanilla together until well combined.
  5. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry and whisk gently, but quickly, to blend.  (Batter will be lumpy.)
  6. Stir in the lemon zest, if using.
  7. Divide batter evenly among muffins cups.  Sprinkle some streusel over each muffin and press into the batter.  (There will be plenty leftover!)
  8. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
  9. Transfer to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.
And as for forgotten birthday number three?  She's still mad... no matter how many kitty treats I have given to apologize.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Italian Chicken Burgers

I was hesitant to post this recipe.  You see, I had made them a few weeks ago and just realized the recipe hadn't been posted.  But when I opened up the draft and saw the picture, I started laughing!  I searched my photos for another picture, but nope.  This is what I have.

The recipe itself was great.  These were similar to other "chicken burgers" I have made and we really enjoyed them.  But, the picture is pretty embarrassing.  Judging by my image, I'm thinking one of two things: (1) I probably could have made a few more patties by making them smaller and thinner.  Or (2) I probably could have purchased a more substantial bun.  Seriously, the burger is about 1.5 inches thick compared to a bun that looks about 1/4 of an inch thick.  Oh my.

I figured they would taste similar to other chicken burgers, but they had their own unique flavors and were distinctively different from the italian chicken parm burgers I had made earlier this year.  Instead of using a skillet, I cooked these in the oven with the broiler.  It worked great.  In total, the meal took about 25 minutes to make and we really enjoyed them.
Italian Chicken Burger
from Paprika Red
  • 1 heaping cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp dried italian seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 1/3 pound ground chicken (I used 1 lb)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp fresh, finely chopped oregano or basil (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 burger buns
  • Toppings:  tomato slices, thinly sliced mozzarella cheese, arugula, basil leaves
  1. Make your seasoned breading by mixing the panko, italian seasoning, grated cheese, salt, and pepper.  Set aside on a large plate.
  2. In another bowl, mix the chicken, egg, salt, and oregano, if using.  Add about 1/4 cup of the bread crumb mixture, mixing gently and being careful not to overwork the meat.
  3. The patties should start holding together but if you need more panko to bind, add about 1 Tbsp at a time, using no more than an additional 2 Tbsp.
  4. Shape into 4 patties and dredge into the panko mixture, pressing the panko into the chicken patties.  You will have some leftover.
  5. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil over Medium heat.  When hot, add the patties.  Cook until medium golden brown on the bottom and chicken appears cooked halfway, about 4-5 minutes.  Flip and continue cooking until the other side is the same color, another 3 minutes or so.
  6. Put your buns in a toaster or under the broiler in the oven.  When bottoms are light golden brown, with about a minute to go, add a layer of cheese on, if desired, and let cheese melt.
  7. Serve with additional toppings.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Mexican Chocolate Wedding Cakes - Week One

Those who know me know that I simply don't know what to do with myself when I don't have an event on the horizon.  Sure, law school itself is an event every single day, but I need to have something else going on in my life in order to avoid total insanity.  The TC marathon is done and over with (and boy was it a doozy, but we don't need to go into the unfortunate details of the fact that I had to literally walk miles 11-26.2) and I haven't yet decided what to do or when I will start prepping for my August 28, 2011 adventure.  Sure, other things will come up, but for now I am focusing on getting healthy and recovering from the injuries I sustained during Twin Cities.

As I was hobbling past William Mitchell around mile 24, I realized that if I didn't come up with something to occupy my time, I would likely have a break down around finals (yes, yes, I break down around EVERY finals period, but I can assure you that this one would be worse).  I realized how much I love the season and what is to come over the next few months.  On Summit Avenue, the beauty of the historic homes and gorgeous changing leaves were mesmerizing.  I just kept thinking about how much I LOVE fall.  And, I love the fact that what arrives next is the holiday season.  The holidays make me feel warm:  family, good friends and company, fantastic food, cozy sweaters, and comforting music.  I just love this time of year.

So, as I stumbled across the finish line, realizing that I was in dire need of a cookie, I decided on what I was going to do to occupy my time.  I'm starting the holiday season a bit early this year.  Today marks the beginning of my 12 weeks of holiday cookies adventure.  And it actually works out quite nicely.  Each year I've considered doing some type of 12 days of Christmas cookie.  But, then you just have a whole lot of cookies to eat in a short period of time.  So, this way I soften the calorie blow a bit, use some recipes I've been dying to try, and I have something to look forward to every week.  Every week (mostly Tuesdays) I will be baking a new batch of cookies.  And from now until Dec.21 (when I will likely be at home making the annual cookie smorgasbord with my mom), I will post a cookie recipe.

Yay!  So, here is the first recipe:  mexican chocolate wedding cakes.  The recipe arrived in my mailbox last year during the newspaper's 31 days of cookies series.  For some reason, I knew I wanted to make these first, perhaps because I have been craving little powdered sugar covered dough balls.  I'm so glad I did.  They were quick, easy, and delicious!  They are unlike the typical teacakes because they added chocolate.  But, I'm not complaining.  I cut the recipe in half and got about 2 dozen cookies.  Well, 22 cookies to be exact.  Cali decided she should be able to eat one and knock another on the ground while doing so.
Mexican Chocolate Wedding Cakes
Pioneer Press 31 Days of Cookies email series
Yield:  5 dozen
  • 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 3 squares (1 ounce each) unsweetened baking chocolate, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  • powdered sugar
  1. To make cookies:  In a large mixing bowl, combine brown sugar and butter, beating at medium speed for 3 minutes until light and fluffy.  Add melted chocolate and vanilla.  Continue beating, scraping bowl often until well mixed.  Reduce speed to low.  Whisk flour and salt together, then add to butter mixture.  Continue mixing until flour is blended (a food processor would work well for this type of dough).  Stir in nuts.
  2. To bake cookies:  Shape teaspoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls.  Place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.  Bake in a 350-degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until set.  Cool for 5 minutes on cookie sheets, then carefully remove from sheets and cool for 5 minutes on cookie rack.  Roll in or sprinkle with powdered sugar while still warm and again when cool.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Five Spice Turkey Bowl

I made this recipe a few weeks ago and we really enjoyed this noodle bowl.  I had been seeing a ton of recipes, everything from cookies to meatloaf, that used Chinese 5-spice powder.  I thought about just mixing up my own, but realized that the jar from McCormick's cost $3, significantly less than it would have cost to find some of the missing, yet integral flavors, to the Chinese 5 spices:  anise, cloves, cinnamon, sichuan pepper, and ground fennel seeds.  Plus, I've already made a few recipes that used the powder so at least it is getting put to use. 

This noodle bowl was great.  It was very quick to make and the spices made the dish so tasty.  There were definitely spices in the dish that I had never used or eaten before, so it was a nice change of pace.  Next time, I might cut out some of the mushrooms though.  I'm not the biggest mushroom fan so I kept forcing them down to make sure there was no waste.  The only confusing thing about the dish was how to eat the noodle bowl.  The noodles needed a form, but the broth needed a spoon.  Ron and I ended up using both :)
Five Spice Turkey Bowl
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 (20 oz) package ground turkey breast
  • 2 tsp Chinese Five Spice powder, divided
  • 8 oz fresh button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp fresh minced garlic
  • 1 (32 oz) pkg vegetable broth
  • 2 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (optional)
  • 2-3 cups broccolini, rinsed and chopped
  • 8 oz WW spaghetti or soba noodles
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh green onion
  1. In large skillet, heat 1 tsp of olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add ground turkey and cook until lightly browned and cooked through.  Stir 1 tsp of 5-spice powder in turkey, then remove and set aside.
  2. Heat the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil and cook the mushrooms until softened.  Add the minced garlic and remaining 1 tsp of 5-spice powder.  Stir fry for about 1-2 minutes.  Add vegetable broth, turkey, sweet chili sauce, salt, and broccolini.  Cook over medium heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, prepare noodles as package direct.  Add cooked noodles to turkey broth mixture.
  4. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with green onions as garnish.