Sunday, November 30, 2008

Southwestern black bean chili

I mentioned back in an August post about chili that I would post my favorite black bean chili recipe. What better time than just after Thanksgiving, when we could all use a healthy crock pot dish requiring very little time in the kitchen?

This recipe can be altered to suit your tastes; you can use one chopped zucchini or yellow squash instead of (or in addition to) carrots, 1-1/2 cups of diced pumpkin instead of the sweet potato, and a mixture of legumes instead of just black beans.

Southwestern black bean chili (makes 8 servings)

1-1/2 cans of black beans (15-ouncers), drained and rinsed

1 large can of crushed or diced tomatoes (28 ounces)

2 cups water

2 smoked, dried chile peppers, ground -- I use a coffee grinder I've designated just for spices -- OR 2 chipotles in adobo sauce, minced

3/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon chili powder

1 yellow onion, diced

2 carrots, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

2-1/2 cups frozen corn

3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 sweet potato, diced

salt and pepper, to taste

chopped fresh cilantro, to garnish servings

yogurt or soy yogurt, for toppings in bowls

optional: chopped avocado, also for a topping

Combine all ingredients except cilantro and yogurt in a crock pot, stir, and cook on low 7-8 hours. You can also combine those ingredients in a soup pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for about two hours, or until carrots are soft. Serve with a dollop of yogurt and some chopped cilantro. Pass the corny cornbread on the side.

Today's question: Where did you have Thanksgiving dinner, and what was your favorite part of the meal?

Coming up this week: Using leftover Memphis pork supper that I've had in the freezer, I am going to try to make tamales for the first time. I think the sweet potato and apple in the pork dish will lend themselves well to that. I'm not sure about the sauce yet, but I'm sure I'll find something fun to whip up.

I also plan to copy my mother-in-law Jeanie's chicken-broccoli casserole soon. It's yummy, but I never have had much luck with casseroles, so we'll see!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Dan's fabulous chipotle sauce

This sauce is great on breaded faux chicken patty sandwiches. It is spicy and sweet, and you can minimize the spiciness by adding more mayo, if you need to. Try it on some leftover turkey!

Dan's fabulous chipotle sauce

2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, finely chopped (leave the seeds in to make it extra spicy)

1-1/2 cups mayonnaise or veganniase

splash of maple syrup

splash of liquid smoke

1 tablespoon mild ajvar (I love this stuff, and it's great on crackers or as a low-cal dip)

tabasco, to taste

1/4 cup yogurt or soy yogurt

Whisk ingredients together well.

A note about this week's posts: I will not be posting a recipe for pumpkin pie made from fresh pumpkin. I just ran out of time to make it that way. If you want to try it, though, I was planning to use this recipe. It's very detailed and sounds fantastic.

Jean's no-fuss creamed spinach

Looking for a no-fuss side dish for Thanksgiving? Try my friend Jean's creamed spinach.

This is a staple at her house every year, and when she brought it to my house last Thanksgiving, I got the recipe from her. It was a hit, and I'll be making it for large groups on special occasions in the future.

Jean's creamed spinach (serves 4-6)

8 ounces cream cheese

30 ounces frozen spinach, with 80 percent of water drained out

1 can cream of mushroom soup

Mix ingredients well and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Told you it was easy!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wild rice & hickory nut salad

I didn't know quite what to do with the hickory nuts that fell in our yard, but our friendly neighbor had mentioned they were very tasty.

I found this Web site devoted to the little nuggets -- which taste like a cross between walnuts and pecans, with a strong hint of maple, I think -- and decided on the following recipe. (I adapted it to my needs.)

Shelling the hickory nuts was the most difficult part of this; they are small and really tucked into their shells, so you'll have to use a nutcracker and pick to get them out. I started with about one-third more nuts than I needed, which was a good thing because about that many were old and shriveled inside! My photos show the nuts I started out with, unshelled, and then the good nuts that remained after shelling.

At first bite, this salad tasted a little strange to me. By the third bite, I thought it was delicious. I know that might sound weird, but some dishes are just like that, aren't they? I happen to love the nutty flavor of brown and wild rice, so that helps. Hopefully, you are a fan of those, too, and will try this interesting side dish out for yourself.

I'm now a big hickory-nut nut! I will be trying out some more dishes with them next year, for sure.

Wild rice & hickory nut salad (makes about 8 servings)

1/2 cup uncooked short-grain brown rice

1/2 cup uncooked wild rice

enough water to cook rice

3/4 cup shelled and chopped hickory nuts

4 green onions, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more if necessary (that's really up to you)

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

3 tablespoons lemon juice

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 apple, diced (just use your favorite kind)

optional: a handful of golden raisins and/or a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon (I will try one of these next time)

1.) Cook rice with water in pot or rice cooker, and let cool completely.

2.) Combine rice with other ingredients in large bowl and toss well to coat evenly with dressing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dan's Indian pilaf

Sometimes it's so great to have a few days off from cooking -- especially when you're lucky enough to have a husband who knows his way around a kitchen!

As I said in my last post, I had to take a few days off from cooking and doing dishes because of a finger injury. It's just a small cut, but in a place that makes it really painful and impossible to keep away from water while working in the kitchen. So for the past few days, I've been enjoying some down time -- as much as I can get with a 1-year-old -- and Dan has taken over kitchen duties.

Last night, he threw together a delicious rice pilaf for our quick Indian meal (I sang the praises of that fast Indian food in this post about my favorite things). Sorry the photo is so dark!

Dan's Indian pilaf (makes 4 servings)

1/2 cup uncooked brown rice (we had short grain; basmati would be ideal)

1/2 cup uncooked wild rice blend

enough water to cook rice in pot or rice cooker

5 cardamom pods

pinch of saffron

1 teaspoon ground coriander

2 teaspoons sliced almonds, toasted and crushed
1 bay leaf

Combine all ingredients in rice cooker or large pot, stir to mix, and add water. Cook until done, and remove cardamom pods before serving.

Friday, November 21, 2008

A few days off...

I will be taking a few days off from blogging because of a finger injury that makes it hard for me to cook, do dishes, etc. So no blogging for me!

When I return, though, I promise a recipe that uses the tasty hickory nuts in our yard -- a wild rice-hickory nut salad -- and a pumpkin pie using fresh pumpkin, as well as a special creamed spinach recipe (an easy one!) just in time for Thanksgiving.

By the way, in case you've never tried hickory nuts, they taste like a cross between walnuts and pecans, and are a little sweet. I'd never heard of them before this year, and I can't wait to try the recipe out.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Crunchy peanut butter balls

These are a delicious sweet treat, and they also are a good snack during a hike (think trail mix). The cereal used should be whole grain, and the peanut butter should be all natural, with no added sugar.

Crunchy peanut butter balls (makes about 4 dozen)

1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup sugar

1 cup peanut butter

6 cups toasted corn & oat cereal (I highly recommend using Annie's Bunny Love)

6 tablespoons powdered sugar

1.) Combine the corn syrup and sugar in a pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and boil rapidly for about 2 minutes. Don't stop stirring!

2.) Take off the heat. Whisk in the peanut butter.

3.) Put the cereal in a wide bowl and pour the peanut butter mix over it. Sprinkle the powdered sugar on top. Stir with a wooden spoon. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. You want it to be warm enough to form into balls, but cool enough to handle.

4.) Form into balls and let them cool completely on wax paper before storing in tupperware.

Optional: Try adding a couple handfuls of raisins with the powdered sugar, or drizzling with melted chocolate before cooling.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Memphis pork supper

I've never made a meal in the crock pot that was almost too big to fit inside, but that was the case with this interesting dish I decide to make. "Too much pork for just one fork," Dan says.

I found this little cookbook in the mall -- at one of those vintage poster shops that pop up around the holidays -- and it's a Family Circle slow cooker cook book, called "Family Circle's Carefree Crockery Cookbook." It's very '70s, not just in how it looks, but in recipes, too, which makes sense because it was published in 1976.

Now, while this recipe is called "Memphis pork supper," there's no fried peanut butter-bacon-banana concoction, or whatever it was that Elvis devoured! It's really an apple-onion-sweet potato-pork mixture, and it's quite good. There was quite a bit of liquid in the crock pot, so I served the pork with a slotted spoon and bread on the side.

Memphis pork supper (serves 8)

3 pounds boneless pork loin, trimmed of fat, cubed

3 pounds of medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered

3 medium onions, sliced

4 medium-sized tart red apples, cored and sliced into rings

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 cups apple juice

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon leaf marjoram, crushed

1/4 teaspoon pepper

chopped fresh parsley (I used the Italian parsley left over from the Sicilian-style grouper)

1.) Trim the fat from the pork and brown it, in a little of that fat a few pieces at a time, in a skillet very quickly. Remove with a slotted spoon and put aside.

2.) Arrange the potatoes around the slow cooker; place the meat in the middle. Top with half of the onion slices and half the apple rings. Sprinkle with sugar. Repeat with a second layer.

3.) Combine apple juice, salt, marjoram, and pepper in a glass measuring cup or bowl. Pour over apple rings.

4.) Cook on low for 8 hours, or on high for 4 hours. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.

Need an idea for leftovers? Try this pork casserole with cornbread crust & mole sauce.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Citrus-roasted snapper

Well, here it is, the final fish dish in the week's worth of dinners. The photo's not much to look at, but this is a good dish if you're in the mood for something mild and low fat that could accompany a wide variety of sides.

I had no idea initially how this would taste because I'd never made it before. Actually, I'd never made any of the fish recipes I've posted here since last Monday. My top pick is the oven-steamed tilapia, but the others all ran a close second.
This one takes the cake for simplicity -- and it's so low-cal (151 calories per serving)! I recommend serving this with a veggie side and some brown rice to soak up the juices. Some recommended sides are listed after the recipe (which, by the way, is from The Wellness Kitchen).

Citrus-roasted snapper (serves 4)

4 red snapper fillets, about 5 ounces each

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

optional: 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1.) Spray a small baking dish with oil and preheat oven to 425.

2.) Sprinkle the snapper with the lime and orange juices, then with the sugar and salt. Top with mint, if using.

3.) Roast for about 10 minutes. (I cooked a single fillet that was 0.83 pounds for Dan and me, and it took twice that amount of time.) Fish should flake when tested with a fork.

Possible sides:

corny corn bread (instead of rice)

Today's food fact: Shrimp is the number-one seafood consumed in the United States.

Today's question: What's your favorite fish/seafood? I don't think I can pick a fave.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Roasted cabbage soup

Dan was in the mood for cabbage soup today; I wanted roasted cabbage. So we compromised. The resulting soup warmed us on this chilly day, and it made the house pretty toasty, too.

Roasted cabbage soup (makes 8-9 servings)

2 shallots, peeled

3 potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-1/2-inch cubes

1/2 head cabbage (about 1-1/2 pounds), cut into about 6 wedges

3 parsley roots, peeled and chopped

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

6 cups vegetable broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1.) Put the potatoes, garlic cloves, and veggie broth in a large soup pot and boil until potatoes are tender.

2.) Meanwhile, put cabbage, shallots, carrots, and parsley roots on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle oil over, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes, then stir/flip veggies, turn heat up to 400, and continue cooking 13-15 minutes more.

3.) Take potatoes off heat when done; cool cabbage and veggies slightly.

4.) Chop cabbage and veggies into smaller pieces, and add them to the potatoes. Reheat before serving if necessary. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. (I had to use quite a lot!)

Mahi mahi parmesan

Do you ever find yourself sitting in a doctor's waiting room, flipping through a magazine, when you realize the only thing you wanted to read has been ripped out by some selfish person?

I'm coming clean. I'm the guilty party. You can direct your anger to me now.

Truthfully, I've only done this a couple times, and only for recipes. The following recipe was acquired that way recently, from the September 2008 issue of Better Homes and Gardens. Let's hope it was worth it!* In the future, I will bring along a pen and paper...

Note: This recipe originally was for tuna steaks.

Mahi mahi parmesan (serves 4)

2 lemons

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

12 ounces asparagus, trimmed

16 ounces mahi mahi, in four equal pieces

5 ounces salad greens (the recipe called for mixed baby greens)

1/3 cup freshly shaved parmesan

1.) Preheat oven to 450. Finely shred 2 teaspoons of peel from a lemon, and squeeze the juice.

2.) In a small bowl, whisk the oil, peel, juice, pepper, and salt. Set aside. Cut second lemon into wedges.

3.) Put asparagus in baking pan in a single layer, and drizzle 2 tablespoons of dressing over it. Bake for 8 minutes.

4.) Heat 1 tablespoon dressing in a large skillet. Add fish, and cook 4-6 minutes per side, until browned. (If cooking tuna, the inside should be slightly pink.)

5.) Put greens onto plates. Top with fish and put asparagus on the side. Drizzle the rest of the dressing over the salads, and sprinkle with parmesan. Serve with lemon wedges.

* Definitely worth it!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bonus weekend recipe: Croutons

Who doesn't love a zesty, crunchy crouton on a salad or some soup?

I think homemade croutons taste much better than any you can buy. And, when you see how easy they are to make, you will never want to buy them again.

It's hard to say exactly how much of each ingredient to use here. I generally use up whole-grain bread that is starting to get dry, so I've made batches with as little as a few slices of bread and as much as would fill a baking sheet. You can even use bread that is starting to mold; just cut that part off before cutting it into cubes. As for the rest of it, be liberal.

Zesty whole grain croutons

whole grain bread (I particularly like multi-grain bread for this)

extra-virgin olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper

granulated garlic

herbes de Provence, or any combination of those dried herbs, such as rosemary, sage, and thyme

pinch of cayenne pepper (it will give the croutons a nice little zing -- I recommend one pinch for every four or five slices of bread)

1.) Cut your bread slices into small cubes -- about 1-inch squares -- and put into a bowl.

2.) Drizzle oil over bread, sprinkle with the other seasonings, and toss well to coat.

3.) Spread out on a baking sheet, and bake for about 7 minutes at 350 degrees. Stir/flip the croutons, then continue baking another 7 or so minutes, or until dark golden.

4.) Cool completely. Store in an airtight container.

Note: When these are done, don't start snacking on them. They are so good, you won't be able to stop!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sicilian-style grouper

"Scrape up any brown bits." A recipe that says that is a recipe after my own heart.

This grouper recipe says that, and it's incredibly healthy and yummy, to boot!

This is the most labor-intensive fish dish during this fish-heavy week. (Still coming up we have mahi mahi and red snapper recipes.)

The recipe comes from Lidia's Italy, a cookbook whose dishes make my mouth water! The recipes are so very specific -- calling for, say, "hand-crushed" tomatoes -- but I trust whatever Lidia says because of the success I've had with her recipes -- especially my all-time favorite beef goulash recipe. (I will post that someday, I promise.)

Well, this is called "grouper matalotta style," and Lidia explains that "alla matalotta" can be done with halibut or striped bass or black bass. It's a dish rich with garlic, capers, and green olives. A true kitchen adventure for me! While I love green olives and capers in meals, I don't think I've ever cooked with them myself. And, I know I've never cooked with grouper.

Note: This recipe requires a heavy-bottomed sauce- or saute pan, about 13 inches wide with a cover. (Dan said that sounds like a Monty Python skit: "I've got a bit of heavy bottom sauce...")

I cut the recipe below in half for just Dan and me, though, so we didn't need a pan quite that large, but I used one anyway.

Grouper matalotta style (serves 6)
2 pounds skinless grouper fillet (halibut, striped bass, or black bass will also do)
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, or to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
all-purpose flour, for dredging (about 1/2 cup)
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed (let them sit for 10 or so minutes before using; their most healthful properties will be activated)
1/2 cup finely chopped celery hearts and leaves
1/2 teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste (I couldn't find these anywhere, so I left them out, unfortunately. I'm sure they gave a little zest to the dish.)
1 cup Sicilian or other large green, brine-cured olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons small capers, drained
2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes, crushed by hand (Lidia recommends San Marzano, a brand I found at Bloomingfoods, but I used chopped tomatoes)

3 cups hot water, or as needed
6 large fresh basil leaves, shredded
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley (I wasn't sure what Italian parsley was, but here it is:)

1.) Slice the grouper into six chunks, roughly equal in size. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of the salt.
2.) Pour the olive oil into the saucepan and put it over medium-high heat.
3.) Dredge the fish chunks in flour, shaking off the excess, and set them in the hot oil. Cook for about 1-1/2 minutes.

Turn them and lightly color the other side. Remove with a spatula and place on a plate.
4.) Scatter the onion slices in the pan, and stir, scraping up bits. Toss in the garlic and celery, stir, and season with the peperoncino -- if you have it -- and another 1/4 teaspoon of salt. Stir for about two minutes as they sizzle, then toss in the olives and caper, stirring until they sizzle.
5.) Pour in the crushed -- or chopped -- tomatoes and hot water. Turn up the heat, and stir until the liquid boils. Adjust the heat to keep it bubbling, and stir in the basil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
6.) Lay the grouper into the sauce in one layer, pouring any juices that have accumulated on the fish plate. Make sure the chunks are nearly covered with sauce; add more water if necessary.
7.) Heat rapidly back to a boil, then simmer gently, partially covered. Shake the pan to distribute that sauce.
8.) When grouper is tender and sauce is slightly thickened -- 20-25 minutes later -- turn the heat off.
9.) Just before serving, drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on top and sprinkle with parsley.
We had this meal with roasted lemon broccoli, a staple in our house, and I highly recommend warm Italian (or French) bread alongside to soak up the sauce!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Baked salmon salad

This recipe was adapted slightly from a grilled tuna salad recipe in The Wellness Kitchen, one of my favorite cookbooks. It was super tasty!

Baked salmon salad (makes 4 large servings)
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
4 salmon fillets, about 4 ounces each
1 pound potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2 pound sugar snap peas, ends trimmed
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salad greens (4-6 large leaves per serving)
2 cups plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
4 sliced green onions

1.) Mix the cumin, coriander, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and sugar in a small bowl. Brush salmon pieces with olive oil, then rub the cumin mix on them.

2.) Bake the salmon on a baking sheet in a 375-degree oven for 20 minutes. Use this time to prepare the rest of the dish.

3.) Steam the potato pieces (about 7 minutes). Put them aside, then use the steamer water to quickly cook the snap peas. Toss them into the boiling water for about 2 minutes.

4.) Whisk the remaining salt, lime juice, oil, and mustard, and add the potatoes and snap peas to that dressing. Add the tomatoes, green onions, and lettuce, and toss all that together well.

5.) When the salmon is done, arrange the salads on plates and top each with a piece of sliced salmon.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Oven-steamed tilapia fillets

First up: Oven-steamed tilapia. *

This recipe is incredibly versatile, so feel free to substitute with a different fish, starch, or veggie.

Two major bonuses to making these packets: They are quick to make, with very few prep dishes to clean up. Hooray!

Oven-steamed tilapia fillets (serves 4)

4 sheets of parchment, about 2 feet long each

1-2 limes, washed and sliced

1 sweet potato, peeled and sliced very thinly

4 tilapia fillets, 5-6 ounces each

1 zucchini, shredded or sliced

8 thick slices of sweet white onion

4 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

6-8 tablespoons of sweet and spicy chile sauce, such as Mae Ploy (the generic ones taste exactly the same to me)

1.) Lay a sheet of foil on your kitchen counter. In the center, arrange one-quarter of your sweet potato slices.

2.) Top that with one-quarter of the zucchini, then garlic and onion, then the tilapia fillet.

3.) Drizzle one tablespoon (or more) of your chile sauce on the ingredients, and top with lime slices and salt and pepper.

4.) Fold the foil or parchment over the ingredients, and fold the edges to seal them in. Leave some room at the top for the steam. It should look a little like a paper lunch sack.

5.) Bake on a baking sheet at 450 degrees for about 15 minutes.

* If you love tilapia, try this tilapia chowder with fresh tarragon sometime. It's one of my new favorite dishes.

Today's food fact: Tilapia is now the fifth most popular seafood in the United States, according to the American Tilapia Association, a site hosted by the University of Arizona. But, according to a July article in Science Daily, "Farm-raised tilapia ... has very low levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and, perhaps worse, very high levels of omega-6 fatty acids...
"The researchers say the combination could be a potentially dangerous food source for some patients with heart disease, arthritis, asthma and other allergic and auto-immune diseases that are particularly vulnerable to an 'exaggerated inflammatory response.'"

Today's question: What do you think are the four most popular seafoods consumed in the United States?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Something new

In case you're wondering, the answer is NO, the meatloaf with gravy and Obama victory cookies I made last week did not help me reach my weight-loss goal -- dropping those final few baby weight pounds.

Truth be told, I've been set back a bit. And I'm not thrilled about it. (I will say, though, that the meatloaf was one of my best ever. If you need comfort food these days, try it out.)

To get back on track, I'm starting something new. While I considered the cabbage soup diet, I don't think any diet that cuts out whole grains is a good idea, no matter how much you can lose in a week. So tomorrow I am starting a week or so of fish recipes.

I am planning about 5 dinners. A couple to look forward to: salmon salad and citrus red snapper. I'm going to pair them with greens or other low-calorie veggie dishes. Perhaps a couple of those will get posted, too.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shamefully easy apple-apricot chicken breasts

I wanted something low-calorie but protein-packed for dinner tonight, and this seemed worth trying. It's so easy I almost didn't want to post it -- then I realized that if I saw a yummy recipe like this online, I'd be happy to have found something that I can prepare in about 3 minutes.

So here you go!

Apple-apricot chicken breasts (serves 4)

3-4 chicken breasts, totaling about 1 pound

3/4 cup apple-apricot sauce (I used this one, but you can also make your own*)

salt and black pepper, to taste

1.) Rinse the chicken and pat dry. Place on a baking dish, and top with equal amounts of apple-apricot sauce. Top with salt and pepper. (I needed quite a bit with this.)

2.) Bake, covered, for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

* While this no longer qualifies as "shamefully easy," you can quite simply make your own apple-apricot sauce if you have a steamer and a strainer.

Apple-apricot sauce (makes about 1 cup or 1-1/2 cups)

1.) Just wash the fruit -- 2 apples and 2 apricots should do it for this dish -- and peel the apples. Place the fruit in a steamer basket. I have a steel one that I love.

2.) Steam (covered, obviously) over a small amount of boiling water for about 10 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Lift the lid and let the fruit cool enough to handle.

3.) The skins should come easily off the apricots by gently rubbing them off by hand. Cut the flesh away from the apples and apricots, and strain them through a strainer one by one.

4.) Stir to mix the fruits.

Possible side dishes:

green salad with maple-mustard vinaigrette

Friday, November 7, 2008

IKEA-inspired meatloaf with gravy

I couldn't resist saying this recipe was inspired by IKEA. Have you ever had the Swedish meatballs in the store's cafeteria? They're so tasty.

I wanted to make something similar to those, but I didn't feel like rolling the meat into so many little balls, then frying them on the stove. And although I have a great recipe for meatballs that are baked, not fried, it's not what I was in the mood for so much today.

I also wanted to incorporate my father-in-law's secret meatloaf ingredient. (See if you can guess which one that is...)

I knew the sauce served with IKEA's meatballs was going to be tricky. I wanted to combine the gravy -- a plain white gravy -- with the fruity side served with it, which I think is cranberry, into one sauce. After a little trial and error, I came up with a sour cream-strawberry-pepper sauce that I think is amazing! Try it out for yourself.

IKEA-inspired meatloaf (makes 8 servings)

1 pound lean ground beef

1 pound ground turkey

1 egg

1 egg white

1/3 cup milk

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1-1/2 cups crushed garlic bagel chips

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon salt

a few dashes of black pepper

1.) Put crushed bagel chips in a bowl with the milk; let them soak up the liquid for a few minutes.
2.) Combine that with the rest of the ingredients, and mix well by hand.

3.) Put in a loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

4.) Serve with sweet sour cream-pepper gravy on the side (below).

Sweet sour cream & black pepper gravy (makes 1-1/2 cups)

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup chicken broth

1-1/2 tablespoons flour

3 tablespoons strawberry fruit spread (try to find the no-sugar-added kind)

1/2 cup sour cream

salt to taste

lots of freshly ground black pepper (don't be shy here)

1.) Heat butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in the flour and chicken broth, and simmer, stirring, for about 3 minutes. Use a whisk to make sure lumps are removed.

2.) Reduce heat to low, and stir in the jelly and sour cream. Add salt and pepper. Serve this -- on the side -- with meatloaf. Some people don't like sweet food as much as I do!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Banana-carrot bread

I think sweet little breads make the nicest holiday gifts. They are affordable, breakfast-worthy (you can't say that about a cookie or fudge), and even often quite healthy.

Last year, I discovered the cutest way to give bread loaves. Instead of trying to find an attractive way to package them, I found disposable paper loaf pans in which you can bake the bread first. They are called Loaf 'Em and Leave 'Em loaf pans. I got them at Goods for Cooks on the downtown square here in Bloomington.

I've been thinking about various types of breads again recently, but not just for holiday gifts. My 1-year-old is usually a great eater -- I could put anything in front of her, and there was not much she didn't like -- but in the past few days, I've noticed she's happy with three things: black beans, tofu, and this whole wheat bread. No fruits or veggies!

So, while I thought perhaps I'd never have to hide fruits and vegetables in her food, that's what I have done with this delicious loaf. I used a basic banana bread recipe and cut out half the sugar (sucanat), replaced the margarine with a little butter, and added carrots. You can try this with other veggies you like, such as sweet potato.

It's a dense little bread, but packed with flavor and healthy goodness!

Banana-carrot bread (makes 1 loaf)
2-1/2 or 3 over-ripe bananas
2 small carrots, finely shredded
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/4 cup butter (or 1/2 cup applesauce, to veganize and sweeten more)
1/4 cup sucanat (or brown sugar)
optional: chopped walnuts or toasted sunflower seeds

1.) Mash bananas with a fork and combine with the shredded carrot. Put aside.

2.) Cream together butter or applesauce and sugar.

3.) Combine the banana mixture with the butter-sugar mixture.

4.) In a separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients. Add dry mix to the wet mix and stir.

5.) Pour into a loaf pan and bake in a pre-heated 375-degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the bread comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Victory cookies!


I made these cookies for a party last night, and what a party it turned out to be. You might want to make these today because you're probably in a celebratory mood. At least, I hope you are.

This recipe is from my sister-in-law Kristen. The family looks forward to her delicious Christmas cookies every year, and I just frosted these with a fluffy and easy frosting that I topped with red, white, and blue decorations.

The key to these is to not bake them too long. They should be soft cookies. They will keep, unfrosted, in tupperware in the freezer until you're ready to frost them. Put wax paper between the layers.

Kristen's famous sugar cookies (makes a couple dozen, depending on your cookie shapes)

2/3 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups flour

1.) Combine the butter, egg, milk, and vanilla in one bowl, and mix.

2.) Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in another bowl, and mix.

3.) Combine the two mixtures, bit by bit, and mix well with an electric mixer, if you have one.

4.) If the batter seems too soft to cut shapes out of, cover and chill it in the fridge for a half hour. Lightly flour a flat surface and roll out about 1/8-to-1/4-inch thick dough.

5.) Cut out your shapes. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet (an air-bake one works well). Bake at 375 degrees for 7-9 minutes.

6.) Cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

Fluffy white frosting (for about 4 dozen small cookies or one 10-inch tube cake)*

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.) Combine sugar, water, and cream of tartar in a sauce pan. Cook, stirring often, until bubbly. Sugar should be completely melted.

2.) In a mixing bowl, combine the egg whites and vanilla. Add the sugar mixture very slowly, beating with an electric mixer on high speed the whole time. Stiff peaks should form after about 9 minutes, and that's when the frosting is done. (I put mine in the fridge for about 20 minutes before using. It was easier to handle.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Courtney's blueberry muffins

My friend Courtney -- her amazing pumpkin cookies were mentioned here -- has made some blueberry muffins that she's sharing with my blog. Hooray!

She said the Paula Deen recipe itself received a few negative comments at the Food Network site where she got the recipe, but hers turned out great.

The recipe below is copied and pasted from that site. I don't usually do that, but I'm pressed for time today. I'm volunteering to help get out the vote for Obama in my area. Today is a big day!!

Blueberry muffins (makes 12 muffins)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 egg, slightly beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup granulated brown sugar or white sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and sugar. In another bowl, combine butter, egg, and milk and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and with a spatula, stir until just combined. Do not beat or over mix; it's okay if there are lumps in the batter. Gently fold the blueberries into the batter.
Spoon the batter into the muffin tray, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake for 10 minutes and remove from the oven. Sprinkle the tops of the muffins with the granulated brown or white sugar and return the muffins to the oven to bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool for about 10 minutes in the pan before turning the muffins out.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Shrimp, corn, & "sausage" chowder with potato dumplings

I was craving some kind of gumbo-ish, chowder-ish, shrimp- and sausage filled dish yesterday, even though the weather was a sunny 75 degrees or so.

I decided to get faux Italian sausage, and I picked up a Boca box because it was on clearance. (Usually, I would get Applegate Farms, but it's pretty pricey.)

The potato dumplings were Dan's idea. I noticed last-minute, as I was slicing things in the food processor with the oil heating on the stove, that I didn't have any potatoes, and he suggested our instant potato dumplings my mother brought us. They are great as an easy side dish and made from dried potato flakes, potato starch, and seasoning salt.

You could easily substitute matzo balls, American dumplings, or regular potatoes in place of the potato dumplings.

Shrimp, corn, and "sausage" chowder with potato dumplings (serves 8-10)

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, divided

3 stalks celery, sliced

1 small or medium onion, sliced

1/4 cup chopped green pepper

1/4 cup chopped red pepper

2 spicy Italian sausage links (I used Boca's vegetarian Italian sausage, but you can use real sausage, too -- it would be even more delicious!)

5 cups chicken broth

1/2 cup water

8 ounces frozen corn kernels
8 ounces peeled shrimp

1.5 teaspoons dried thyme

3/4 teaspoon gumbo file (ground sassafrass leaves -- I like Tony Chachere's)

salt and pepper, to taste

1 cup soy creamer or light cream (I like the soy because it's a little sweet)

8 potato dumplings, cut into fourths or eighths (If you can't find the instant brand I use, Marena -- which I haven't seen it in the U.S. -- try this simple recipe)

1.) Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large soup pot over medium. Add celery, onion, and red and green pepper, and cook about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2.) Add chicken broth, corn, carrots, thyme, salt, pepper, and gumbo file, and bring to a boil.

3.) Simmer the two sausage links in 1/2 cup water in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Cook for 10 minutes, turning occasionally. Drain sausages, return to skillet with 1 teaspoon oil, and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes in all. Slice the sausage when cool enough to handle.

4.) Add sausage to the soup pot; bring to a boil. Turn heat to a gentle simmer, and simmer about 20 minutes, covered.

5.) Add the shrimp just as you turn off the heat, and cover. Let sit 5 minutes.

6.) Stir in creamer or cream, and add the hot potato dumplings.

Angel cake

I chose this recipe for my daughter's first birthday because it had very few ingredients -- I wanted to keep it simple -- and just egg whites, not egg yolk. (She hasn't yet eaten the latter.)

It was the first time I've made a cake like this, and the first time I've used a tube pan. The hardest part was getting all the egg whites beaten until they were stiff; I used 10 egg whites, so it took a while, even with the electric mixer.

The resulting cake was very good, although it did seem to flatten a little between the time it came out of the oven and the time we ate it (the following night).

It was almost completely eaten by two toddlers and four adults, as you can see by the last photo. Alice (top) and her friend Maya loved it! Maya wasn't sure at first, then she clapped.

This recipe came from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book.

Angel cake (makes one 10-inch tube cake, or about 10 small pieces)

10-12 egg whites, or 1.5 cups, room temperature

1.5 cups sifted powdered sugar

1 cup sifted cake flour or sifted all-purpose flour

1.5 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup sugar

1.) Sift the powdered sugar and flour together three times. In a separate bowl -- a very large bowl -- beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on medium until soft peaks form, and the tips curl.

2.) Add the regular sugar 2 tablespoons at a time, and comtinue to beat until stiff peaks form, and tips stand straight up.

3.) Sift 1/4th of the flour mixture into the egg whites at a time, folding in gently. (Be careful; the powder will get blown around easily.)

4.) Pour the batter into an ungreased 10-inch tube pan. Bake on the oven's lowest rack at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes, or until the top springs back when touched lightly.

5.) Immediately invert the cake while still in the pan. Cool completely, then loosen the sides and remove from pan.

Today's food fact: Ever wonder why dieters and other food-conscious folks ask for egg white omelettes? One egg white has 17 calories, no fat, no cholesterol, and 3.6 grams of protein. One egg yolk alone has 55 calories, 4.5 grams of fat, 2.7 grams of protein, and 210 milligrams of cholesterol. (Source: