Saturday, December 29, 2012

Pecan Pie Bars

Tis the season....of baked goods, chocolate, and sugar.  The options as endless--traditional sugar cookies to decorate for Santa, eggnog snickerdoodles, chocolate mint creme yule log, fudge, peppermint bark, peanut brittle, toffee, and so much more!  Let's not forget about these pecan pie bars. 

They can't be beat; a whole pie in one bite!  Let's be serious, who wants a whole piece of pie after already consuming nearly one million calories of junk?  Although these little gems certainly aren't healthy, because they are so small, one can feel less guilty about consumption.  Also, they truly are the perfect bite--I wouldn't want more than one.  Any more, and it would be too sweet for anyone (aside from Buddy the Elf).  

The pecans are perfectly toasted; the filling is perfectly gooey, but not leaky or hard; and the crust ties the filling components together and provides a slightly salty balance to the otherwise sugar-laden treat.  I don't care much for pecan pie because it is oftentimes too messy/sticky/gooey and is far too sweet for me.  These delicious little squares, however, mitigate all of those concerns and are truly scrumptious.

Buddy the Elf would be proud.

Pecan Pie Bars:
Adopted from this recipe.

For the Crust...
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 3/4 cup of butter, softened
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
For the Filling....
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup of light corn syrup
  • 1 1/4 cup of sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 3 cups of chopped pecans (I leave some as pecan halves, and then chop the majority)
  1. Line a 15 x 10 baking pan with nonstick tinfoil.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, blend together the flour, sugar, butter, and salt until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Press the crumbs firmly and evenly into the prepared pan.
  4. Bake for 20ish minutes until the crust just begins to golden.
  5. In another bowl, combine the filling ingredients and mix well.
  6. Spread evenly over the hot crust.
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the center of the filling is set.
  8. Cool to room temperature on a wire rack, then move to the refrigerator before attempting to cut.  (I have found that they cut cleanly when they are refrigerated after having cooled to room temperature on the rack.)
  9. ENJOY!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Rosemary and Thyme Biscuits

There is something to be said about a good biscuit.  Perfectly fluffy but dense, buttery but light, and flaky but moist.  So why does everyone smother them with fat-laden gravy or hollandaise sauce, or serve them with a massive hunk of greasy, leathery, and cholesterol-packed red meat?  Sorry about my soapbox moment, but it is one of life's greatest mysteries.

In my opinion, biscuits should be a highlighted component of a dish and not smothered.  These rosemary and thyme biscuits certainly do their job well.  Because they are delicious (and small) we found it easy to eat about six without even batting an eye, and then to come back a few minutes later and eat some more.

These biscuits are perfect--and incredibly easy to make.  However, if you plan to make them, you have to promise to make them a highlight of you meal and not bathe them in a heavy and unhealthy sauce.  You can, of course, dip them in high quality olive oil infused with a homemade blend of Tuscan spices...

 Rosemary and Thyme Biscuits:
Adopted from this recipe.
  • 1-2ish tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves
  • 1-2ish tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves 
  • 3 cups of self-rising flour (if you don't have self-rising flour, you can google the proportion of baking powder and salt to add)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper
  • a few shakes of crushed red pepper (optional) 
  • 3/4 cup lemon-lime soda (I used diet 7Up for one batch, and sparkling water for another and both turned out fine)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, pepper, thyme and rosemary.  
  3. Make a well in the center. Using a fork, gently stir in the soda and heavy cream, mixing just until incorporated.
  4. Do not over mix!
  5. Drop heaping tablespoons (about the size of a golf ball) onto the prepared baking sheet. 
  6. Bake until puffed and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. 
  7. Try to not eat them all at once.
  8. ENJOY!  

Sprouts and Beans Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette

What to do with Brussels?  What to do with green beans?  Steam them?  Bake them?  Braise them?  Saute them?  Blanch them?  Boooooorrrrriiiiiiiiing.  Although tasty, these options have all been exhausted.  So I started looking for something new, creative, interesting, and bound to be tasty and was inspired by this seemingly fancy haricots verts and white beans recipe.  With the addition of the salad, more dijon, and a bunch of brussels sprouts, my resulting salad was delicious.

The brussels and green beans were perfectly al dente, while the white beans were slightly soft--ultimately creating perfectly complementing textures.  Additionally, the freshness of each veggie was highlighted by the dijon vinaigrette and spices.  Overall, this salad is sophisticated and elegant, but also incredibly quick and easy to make.  You can easily serve it on a weeknight when schedules are tight, or bring it to share at a fancy holiday meal.  We did both!

Finally, a new solution for what to do with brussels sprouts and green beans.  This salad is an instant hit!

Sprouts and Beans Salad with Dijon Vinaigrette:
Based on this recipe.
  • 2 cans of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 or 3 large thyme sprigs
  • 2 or 3 large rosemary sprigs
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • between 1 and 2 pounds of brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and wilted leaves peeled off
  • about a pound (a very healthy handful) of green beans, trimmed
  • between 1/2 cup and 1 cup of chicken broth
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • about 2 tablespoons of dijon mustard
  • 2ish tablespoons of sherry vinegar
  • 2ish tablespoons of red wine vinegar
  • fresh ground pepper
  1. In a medium-sized pot, add the beans, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary.  Cook for about 10 minutes or so until the beans are tender (but not mushy) and the herbs have had enough time to integrate.  When done cooking, discard the liquid and the sprigs.
  2. In a large skillet, heat a glug or two of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook until tender.   
  3. Add the brussels sprouts, and the chicken broth.  You need enough liquid for the sprouts to braise, but not so much that they are floating/swimming.  Cook until they can be pierced with a fork, but are not mushy.
  4. When the brussels are almost al dente, in a medium pot of boiling water, cook the green beans until crisp/tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain the beans into a colander and rinse with very cold water.  
  5. In a small bowl, combine the mustard and vinegars.  Taste and adjust.   
  6. Combine all the veggies into your serving bowl.  Add the vinaigrette and toss well.  
  7. Refrigerate until ready to serve.  
  8. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sweet Potato Mashers

Yukon gold potatoes are incredible mashed.  Sweet potatoes are incredible mashed.  What is out of this world, however, is a combination of mashed sweet and Yukon gold potatoes.  These mashers are the perfect amount of sweet and hearty, smooth and lumpy, creamy and healthy.  Additionally, the natural flavors of both kinds of potatoes are enhances with rosemary, thyme, and sage.

While these mashers are designed as a side, they are certainly a show-stopper.  They are delicious on their own, as an accompaniment to a protein, and also incredible as a "binder" in a veggie pie.  Because of their fresh taste, these guys are great throughout the year with a wide variety of dishes.  Trust me, you'll love them.

Sweet Potato Mashers:
  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 4-6 Yukon gold potatoes, unpeeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 ounces of reduced fat cream cheese
  • a little bit of skim milk
  • rosemary, thyme, and sage to taste (about a tablespoon of each)
  1. In a very large pot, add both kinds of potatoes and cover with water. 
  2. Cook on (almost) high until both kinds of potatoes are tender and can easily be pierced with a fork.
  3. Drain the potatoes.  Add the cream cheese and a little bit of milk.  Add the first round of spices.
  4. Mash until lumpy.  Add more milk if necessary.  Taste and adjust spices if necessary.
  5. Mash until desired consistency.  
  6. Enjoy!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Artichoke, Mushroom, and Parmesan Sourdough Stuffing

Yes, Thanksgiving is over and it probably would have been helpful to post this blog before my favorite food holiday, but I got so consumed with cooking, cleaning, and being thankful for my friends and family that it never happened.  Therefore, you'll just have to make this stuffing for Christmas.

Trust me, this is the best stuffing ever in the entire universe.  It meets all of the requirements for being traditional--slighly crusty on top but soft in the middle, herby flavors marrying together perfectly with onions and celery--but travels to a whole new level of awesome with the addition of mushrooms, parmesan, sourdough bread, and marinated artichokes.

This is the stuffing that has now become tradition in our house and will continue to grace our holiday tables for years to come.  For this, I am thankful.

Artichoke, Mushroom, and Parmesan Sourdough Stuffing:
Adapted from this recipe.
  • 1 pound of portabella mushrooms, rinsed, trimmed, and sliced
  • a little bit of olive oil
  • 2 small/medium sweet onions, diced
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • about 2 cups of reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 loaf of sourdough bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • about 12 ounces of marinated artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
  • a heaping 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
  • about 1 teaspoon each of crushed rosemary, sage, and thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large egg
  1.  In a large skillet, heat a glug or two of olive oil.  Add the onions, celery, and garlic.  Cook until soft.  Add the mushrooms and cook them until they are soft too.
  2. Pour the softened veggies into a large bowl.
  3. Pour two cups of chicken broth into the bowl, add the bread, chopped artichokes, parmesan, and all spices.  Mix well.  
  4. Taste.  Adjust spices if needed.
  5. Make a well in the stuffing.  Add the egg and lightly beat with a fork to blend.
  6. Mix the egg into the stuffing until fully incorporated.
  7. The oven should already be cooking your lovely turkey at 325 or 350 degrees. 
  8. Place nonstick tinfoil in the largest casserole dish you have.  Add the stuffing.  Sprinkle the top with a little more parmesan.
  9. Cover the stuffing with regular tinfoil.  
  10. Bake until hot, about 45 minutes.
  11. Remove the tinfoil and cook for another 5 or 10 minutes until the top is lightly browned and crusted.
  12. ENJOY!
Note:  You can soften the veggies a few days before an store in the fridge.  You can also chop the bread ahead of time too.  Putting it all together should be done the day of. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups

HOLY SMOKES!!!  Where to start?  This is my first major food holiday as a blogger.  I am feeling overwhelmed--with gratitude for my friends, family, career, opportunities, good fortune, my health, my sports, and more, but also because of all the great culinary creations to blog about.  I am certain there are far more important things to be concerned about than the backlog of the blog, but admittedly, it is stressing me.  Here's a list of the very noteworthy food items that need to be shared (in addition to these chocolate peanut butter cups):
  • artichoke, mushroom, and parmesan sourdough stuffing
  • sweet potato mashers
  • fresh rosemary and thyme biscuits
  • brussels sprouts and green bean salad with a dijon vinaigrette dressing
  • pecan pie bars
I know I am leaving you in suspense and making you wait until next November to make some of these things.  Sorry.  Regardless, I hope all of you had a lovely Thanksgiving and a relaxing long weekend. 

Most importantly at this very moment, however, is the need to celebrate the incredible deliciousness of these chocolate peanut butter cups.  My favorite processed candy is the Reese's peanut butter cup, and these homemade ones are even better because you get to decide your desired perfect proportion of chocolate and peanut butter.  They are incredibly easy to make and are absolutely heavenly.  Also, they are gorgeous to give as a gift.

These are currently my favorite candy treat--and for good reason!  Enjoy!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups:
1/2 cup (125 grams) creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (55 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
Chocolate Coating
9 ounces (255 grams) semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 ounces (255 grams) milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon (10 grams) shortening

Read more:

Peanut Butter Filling...
  • a heaping 1/2 cup of creamy peanut butter (I used Simply Jif because I knew it would hold together unlike natural peanut butter, but also because it doesn't have 11 million crazy preservatives)
  • 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • about a 1/4 cup of granulated sugar (more or less depending on how sweet you want the peanut butter filling to be)
Chocolate Coating...
  • 16ish ounces of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2ish ounces of whit chocolate chips
  • 1 slightly heaping tablespoon of shortening (it helps with the consistency and re-hardening of the chocolate...yes, it sounds gross, but it is necessary)
  1. Line a larger mini-muffin pan with mini-liners.
  2. Microwave the chocolates and the shortening until "al dente".  This means, microwave for a minute, stir, microwave for another minute which should produce 90% melted chocolate chips (there will still be a few lumps).  When at this stage, leave the chocolate and make the peanut butter filling.
  3. In another bowl, mix the peanut butter, sugar, and butter.  Microwave until smooth, but not quite melted--about 45 seconds.
  4. Microwave the chocolate one more time until completely melted.  Be careful though to not heat it so much that the chocolate seizes.
  5. Scoop the chocolate into a ziploc bag and cut a small sliver in one of the corners to use to pipe.
  6. Pipe the chocolate into the mini-muffin tins until they are a little less than 1/3 full.  
  7. Scoop the peanut butter filling into a ziploc bag and pipe onto the chocolate until the tins are about 2/3 full.
  8. Pipe the top layer of chocolate until the tins are full.
  9. Top with crushed peanuts if you want.
  10. Place in the freezer or refrigerator (or in our case, outside) until set.  
  11. Store in the fridge to maintain consistency, but these are best served at room temperature or slightly cooled.
  12. ENJOY!  These are incredible.

Peanut Butter Cups:

1/2 cup (125 grams) creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (55 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
Chocolate Coating
9 ounces (255 grams) semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 ounces (255 grams) milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon (10 grams) shortening

Read more:

1/2 cup (125 grams) creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (55 grams) confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar
Chocolate Coating
9 ounces (255 grams) semi sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
9 ounces (255 grams) milk chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon (10 grams) shortening

Read more:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sloppy Squash "Lasagna"

Favorite meal I have eaten in a long time = this sloppy squash "lasagna".  What started as an already awesome soup turned into an absolutely heavenly lasagna of sorts with the addition of some pasta and cheese--it is a fantastic way to upcycle your soup leftovers.  It is equal parts fall harvest + healthy vegetables + comfort food. 

Sounds like perfection to me!

Sloppy Squash "Lasagna":
  1. In a large pan, boil the water for your pasta, and cook until al dente.
  2. Drain the pasta.
  3. Turn the heat of your burner to medium low.
  4. Add enough soup to make the pasta thick, but not soupy--a little more than just coating, a little less than drowning.
  5. Add your desired amount of mozzarella cheese--I used about a cup and a half.
  6. Add a little parmesan cheese.
  7. Cook and stir continuously until the sauce is hot and the cheese is melted.
  8. Enjoy your sloppy "lasagna"!  It is so good.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pretzel Poppers

A few weeks ago, we made these pretzel sticks that were absolutely divine.  They certainly were the best soft pretzels I have ever eaten in my entire life.  We decided that an out-of-this-world combination would be to stuff the already delicious pretzel with jalapeno popper filling.  That's precisely what I decided to bring for our "game night" the other night.  Holy smokes they were tasty.  All things wonderful about the soft and salty pretzel combined with the creamy, spicy, and cheesiness of the popper filling. 

These have "tailgate party" written all over them.  If you really wanted to bring out the tailgate theme, you could dip the pretzel poppers in chili.  That may just be heaven in one bite!  They are also perfect for BBQs, picnics, and as an appetizer to share.  I can't wait to make them again!

Next time I am going to increase the filling to pretzel dough ratio.

Pretzel Poppers:

For the Pretzel Dough...
Use the recipe for these.
  • 2 cups of nonfat milk
  • 2 packets of active dry yeast
  • 6 healthy tablespoons of packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup of butter, softened
  • 5 1/2ish cups of all-purpose flour (maybe a little more or less depending on the dough)
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 1/3 cup of baking soda
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • kosher salt for dusting
  1. Warm the milk in a 2 cups pouring measuring cup (or a bowl, I suppose) in the microwave until hot but not boiling (about 110 degrees).  This will be about 1 1/2 or 2 minutes.
  2. Add the yeast to the milk and let proof until foamy, about 5 minutes.
  3. When the yeast has proofed, pour the mixture into a stand mixture and add the brown sugar, butter, 1 cup of flour, and the 2 teaspoons of salt.
  4. Mix with your paddle attachment until blended. 
  5. Switch to the dough hook attachment.
  6. Add the remaining flour a cup at a time.
  7. "Knead"/mix on medium low until the dough is elastic and comes off the sides of the bowl freely.
  8. Move the dough to a medium-sized mixing bowl liberally sprayed with cooking spray.
  9. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour.
For the Popper Filling...
  • 10 ounces of 1/3 fat cream cheese, softened
  • about 1/2 cup of light sour cream
  • about 1 1/2 cup of Mexican blend cheese
  • 4-6 ounces of dices jalapenos
  1. Add all the ingredients to a mixing bowl, and stir to combine. 
  2. Scoop the filling into a gallon sized ziploc bag.  Cut a small corner off of one of the corners.  (This is now your "piping bag".)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silpat.
  2. Break off a small ball of dough and roll out on a well floured surface.
  3. Pipe your desired amount of filling.
  4. Fold up the sides and pinch the ends.  Use a butter knife to cut off the excess.
  5. When all of the pretzel poppers have been assembled, whisk together the warm water and the baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
  6. Dump a cookie sheet full of the poppers into the water/baking soda and slosh around.
  7. Let the excess water drip off the popper and re-place them on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 8-12 minutes until golden brown.  The cooking time will vary based on the ratio of dough to filling and how big your poppers are.  Keep a close watch--make sure they don't burn.
  9. SAVOR!!!!!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Squash and Sweet Potato Soup

Aside from peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, wine and chocolate, or beer and pizza, I can't think of two things that go together more wonderfully than butternut squash and sweet potatoes.  When you pair that combination with the love triangle consisting of rosemary, thyme, and sage in the form of a soup, the result is simply magical.  The only thing that could potentially make it better would be to include a warm fire and a classic movie.

This is the perfect fall meal.  Next time I am going to make butterscotch pumpkin bread or gingersnaps for dessert.  Maybe tomorrow....

Squash and Sweet Potato Soup:
  • 1 butternut squash, cut in half and seeded
  • 2 good-sized sweet potatoes, pealed and cut into inch-sized pieces
  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced
  • up to 8 cups of low sodium chicken broth (we used water and 5 teaspoons of chicken bouillion)
  • a whole bunch of fresh rosemary, thyme, and sage, very thinly chopped (sorry, I didn't measure--I started with a little of each and then kept adding.  I would say it was probably 4ish tablespoons of each....but I really have no idea.)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Place the butternut squash cut-side down on a cookie sheet that is lined with nonstick tinfoil.
  2. Cook until the squash can be easily pierced with a fork.  
  3. In the meantime, add a little olive oil to a very large pot and head on medium-high.  Add the leeks and cook until the leeks are soft.
  4. Add about 6 cups of broth (or water and the bouillion if you are going that route) to the pot, along with the chopped sweet potatoes and bring to a rolling boil.
  5. Cook until the sweet potatoes are soft.  Turn the heat to low.
  6. When the squash is finished cooking, scoop it out of the peel and add to the pot with the sweet potatoes and the leeks.
  7. Add your first round of spices and the rest of the broth/water if the soup is very thick.
  8. Use an immersion blender to puree everything into smitherines.
  9. Taste and adjust the spices.
  10. Cook on medium-low for a few minutes to give the spices and flavors a chance to integrate.
  11. Taste and adjust the spices again.
  12. Serve with a lovely glass of wine and ENJOY!

One Pot and One Tagine Pasta

With the election over, and lots of people either elated or furious, we decided to mend the fences with one of the easiest, freshest, and tastiest dinners we have had in a very, very long time.  Also, this dish is green and yellow--how bipartisan! 

Broccoli, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, chicken, wheat pasta, a dash of crushed red pepper, and parmesan.  That's all this takes.  Yes, you read it right.  That's all.  The key is to (obviously) use fresh broccoli and fresh lemon.  No cheating, people.  The whole thing from start to finish takes less than half an hour.  Holy smokes!  The result is gourmet--the zing of the lemon, the freshness of the lemon, a hint of creaminess from the parmesan, and a touch of heat from the pepper.  It's so good.

Anyone who you serve this to will be sure to get along.

Bipartisan Pasta:
  • one head of broccoli cut into bite size florets
  • the zest of one fresh lemon 
  • the juice of that lemon 
  • two large chicken breasts, cut into smaller pieces
  • a dash of red pepper flakes
  • a little olive oil
  • wheat penne pasta
  • grated parmesan cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil to cook the pasta.
  2. In a tagine (or a large saucepan with a very tight fitting lid), add all of the ingredients except the pasta and cheese.  
  3. Cook over medium-high until the chicken is cooked through and the broccoli is soft, but not mushy.
  4. When the broccoli and chicken are a few minutes away from being done, add the pasta to the boiling water.
  5. Cook until al dente.
  6. Drain the pasta and return to the pot.  Add a little olive oil to the pasta.  Add the contents of the tagine.  Add the parmesan.
  7. Stir to combine.
  8. ENJOY!!!!!
  9. (Yes, it is that easy.)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cauliflower and Broccoli "Breadsticks"

Who knew that cauliflower and broccoli could be turned into "breadsticks"?  Sounds like a magic trick.  I suppose this transformation is better--and certainly healthier--than taking a blue box of noodles, adding some powder, and calling it mac and cheese (which I absolutely love, don't get me wrong).

These "breadsticks" truly taste like something straight out of your favorite Italian restaurant, but without the guilt--perfectly seasoned, equally "doughy" and crispy, and a hint of cheese.  We served them with the butternut squash spaghetti the other night.  I can't wait to experiment with turning these little tasty guys into a lasagna of sorts, make them spicy, or turn them into curried bites to serve with Indian food.

Don't let the broccoli and cauliflower scare you.  These "breadsticks" are fantastic!

Cauliflower and Broccoli "Breadsticks"
Inspired from this recipe.
  • 1/4 head of a large head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 head of broccoli
  • 3 or 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 large egg
  • 4-6 ounces of lowfat mozzarella cheese (we used light sting cheese because that's what we had in the house and it worked just fine)
  • about a teaspoon of Italian seasoning
  • a few dashes of crushed red pepper flakes
  • a hint of salt and pepper
  1. Prehead the oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 9 x 5 loaf pan with parchment paper and lightly spray with cooking spray.
  2. "Bread crumb" the broccoli and cauliflower by grating on the smallest side of your cheese grater.  You should end up with about 2 cups of "crumbs".
  3. Put the "crumbs" in a bowl and microwave until softened, about 6 minutes.  Let cool slightly.
  4. While the "crumbs" are cooking, heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the garlic until fragrant.  This should take about a minute--it goes real fast, so be careful not to burn.
  5. To the bowl of "crumbs", add the garlic, egg, the grated cheese, the Italian seasoning, the crushed red pepper, and salt and pepper. 
  6. Stir to combine and then spread in the prepared pan.
  7. Bake until the loaf is set and starting to turn golden brown, about 30 minutes.
  8. Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper.  Use the parchment paper to lift the loaf out of the loaf pan and carefully flip it over onto the lined baking sheet (so the bottom is on top).  Bake until golden, about 10 minutes.
  9. Preheat the broiler.  
  10. Broil a couple minutes until the cheese is melted and golden in spots.  
  11. Cut into pieces.
  12. ENJOY!!!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Butternut Squash Spaghetti

We have been on a pasta kick lately--we had the turkey risotto (which isn't a pasta, I know, but it's close enough), the best bolognese, which we then turned into the braided spaghetti bread (that I keep dreaming about), and the pasta with balsalmic chicken, to name a few.  As I type, I am eating another pasta dish that will be blogged about in the very near future.  Anyhow, the reason for our pasta habit is not because of some deep-rooted craving, but because we are so busy that the only thing we can seem to throw together when we get home is wheat pasta from Costco, chicken also from Costco, and whatever veggies still look fresh enough to eat from the fridge.

This butternut squash spaghetti did require a trip to the store to get a squash because I didn't happen to have one lying around, but I had all of the other ingredients on hand.  What a tasty treat!  The creaminess from the butternut squash tricks you into thinking you are eating cream-, butter-, and cheese-laden fettuccine alfredo at a world-class Italian restaurant while drinking Chianti and whispering sweet nothings to your dinner partner in the candlelight.  Keep that image in your head--this dish is nearly there--but even better because it comes with all of the flavor (and romance if you want) but without the calories!  This was an incredible hit at our house.

Teaser Alert:  I will post the veggie breadsticks we made as dipping vessels in a future post.  Since we are talking about romance, I am going to leave you wanting to come back to more.  What a flirt, I know.

In the meantime, relish in the beauty, grace, and elegance that is this butternut squash spaghetti.  It is the absolute perfect meal for a fall date.  In fact, I may have to make it again for just that reason!

Butternut Squash Spaghetti:
(This makes a ton of sauce.  You could easily use the leftovers to make a butternut squash soup.)
  • 1 butternut squash, cut in half and seeded
  • 4 chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into small pieces
  • 2ish portabello mushroom heads cut into small pieces
  • 1 large leek, the white part thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3-4ish cups of lower sodium chicken broth (the amount depends on the consistency you are going for)
  • 4-5 fresh sage leaves, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup of freshly grated paremesan cheese
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 pound of wheat spaghetti
  • more grated parmesan for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Line a cookie sheet with nonstick tinfoil and place the squash cut-side down on the prepared sheet.  Cook for 25-30 minutes or until a fork inserted into the thickest part of the squash comes out very easily.  We are going for fully cooked here, people, not al dente.
  2. Get a large pot of water boiling for the pasta.
  3. While the squash is cooking, add the leeks and garlic to a large saute pan coated with a little bit of olive oil.  Cook until the leeks are soft.  
  4. Once the squash is fully cooked, remove it from the oven and let cool slightly until you can manage it without having to go to the hospital.
  5. While waiting for the squash to cool, cook your chicken and portabellos.  We threw all of the diced chunks of both into the tagine with a little bit of olive oil.  You can easily cook your chicken and the mushrooms together in a skillet with some olive oil and a hint of wine if you want. 
  6. As soon as the chicken is cooking, add the pasta to the boiling water.
  7. Monitor the chicken and pasta and make the sauce at the same time.
  8. Scoop half of the squash into the food processor along with the leeks and garlic. 
  9. Add about a cup of chicken broth and begin to puree. 
  10. Continue to add the rest of the squash.
  11. Add chicken broth until the sauce has reached your desired consistency.  
  12. Return the sauce to the large saute pan used for the leeks and garlic to reheat on medium/low.  (The temperature will have dropped because of the chicken broth.)  
  13. Stir in the parmesan cheese and the sliced sage.
  14. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  15. To serve, place a bed of spaghetti on the bottom of your dish of choice, add some sauce, and top with the chicken and poratbellos.
  16. Garnish with parmesan cheese.
  17. ENJOY!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Turkey Risotto

A few weeks ago, we made this bolognese, which at the time I claimed was the best in the world and I will continue to stand by that statement.  This time around, we made creamy, delicious, equal parts al dente and soft, flavorful, and slightly cheesy risotto to use as the base for the bolognese. 

Best idea ever.

Turkey Risotto
  • 2 cups of Arborio rice
  • about 5 cups of warm water
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of chicken boullion
  • 1/2 a sweet onion, diced
  • 1/3 cup of white wine
  • about 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • about 1/2 cup lowfat mozzarella cheese, grated
  • the turkey bolognese + one bunch of chopped asparagus
  • parmesan cheese for the top
  1. In a very large nonstick saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. At the same time, microwave two cups of water with one teaspoon of boullion until it is warm and the bouillon dissolved.
  3. Add the onions and cook until soft.
  4. Add the risotto and stir until the little kernels have a lovely sheen (be careful not to burn them)
  5. Add the wine and stir until evaporated.
  6. Add the water/boullion.  Turn the heat to medium low.
  7. Get another two cups of water with one tablespoon of boullion in the microwave and ready.
  8. Stir the risotto regularly and be sure it does not stick to the bottom, dry out, or begin to burn.
  9. While the risotto is cooking, make the bolognese in another large saucepan.  Add the asparagus pieces to the sauce and let it all cook.
  10. When the risotto begins to lose liquid, add the other two cups of water slowly.
  11. Continue stirring and cooking.
  12. You may need to add even one more cup of water.
  13. When the risotto is cooked to perfection, stir in the mozzarella cheese.
  14. Serve the risotto with the bolognese on top.
  15. ENJOY!!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes

Dear Hungry Alaskans, I realize I have completely neglected you for a week.  I have plenty of excuses:  end of the quarter, 40 progress reports to write, 11 meetings in one day, the first ski movie of the year!, yoga, running, cleaning the house, baseball playoffs, chalkboard paint, mod podge, and many other really good reasons.  OK, 90% of my excuses are lame, but give me a little credit for trying.  

The real reason I haven't posted is because I have not been able to find adequate words to describe these chocolate pumpkin cupcakes.  Seriously.  The simple combination of pumpkin, chocolate, a few spices, and cream cheese make these cupcakes heavenly.  They are infinitely better than your average chocolate cupcake due to their decadent density, and they are far better than pumpkin pie because they do not have the consistency of baby food/I-lost-my-dentures-and-have-to-eat-paste.  

The perfect amount of chocolate, the perfect amount of pumpkin, and the perfect hint of cinnamon/nutmeg/cloves/ginger/allspice lead to the best fall treat ever created.  Even my absolutely phenomenal niece who only eats quesadillas, hot dogs, mac and cheese, goldfish, and skinless apples thought they were great!

Chocolate Pumpkin Cupcakes:
Loosely inspired from this recipe.

For the Cupcakes...
  • 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of  vanilla extract
  • 2 cups of flour
  • 3/4 cup (heaping) of unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 teaspoons of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice
For the Frosting...
  • 4 ounces of 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup better, softened
  • 3-5ish cups of powdered sugar (depends on your consistency preference)
  • 2 teaspoons of pumpkin pie spice
  • 3 tablespoons of milk
To Make the Cupcakes...
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line your preferred size muffin tin with liners--my favorite are the mini-sized.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the sugar, buttermilk, oil, eggs, pumpkin, salt, vanilla, and pumpkin spice until blended.
  3. Turn off the mixer and add the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder.  
  4. Turn your mixer on to the lowest speed until things begin to combine, then turn the speed up.
  5. Blend until smooth.
  6. Fill a gallon-sized ziploc bag with the batter.  Cut a centimeter-ish wide hole in one of the corners of the bag.
  7. "Pipe" the batter 3/4 of the way full into the lined muffin tins.
  8. Bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  This will vary based on the size of your muffin tins.  At 15 minutes, I would start to keep a very close eye on them.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.
To Make the Frosting...

  1. Beat the cream cheese and butter until light and fluffy. 
  2. Add the milk and again beat until fluffy.
  3. Add the pumpkin spice.
  4. Add the sugar, about a cup at a time.
  5. Beat on high until your desired consistency is reached.
  6. Fill a gallon-sized ziploc bag with the frosting.  Cut a centimeter-ish wide hole in one of the corners of the bag.
  7. "Pipe" the frosting onto the cupcakes.
  8. Lightly cover with sprinkles if you want.
  9. ENJOY!

Beat cream cheese and sugar then add powdered sugar pumpkin pie spice and milk and mix until fully blended together and fluffy.