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Archive for December, 2007

best of 2007

No, this isn’t the corny name of a new dessert I’ve created, but an expression of my excitement about having my Kashi Apple Pancakes named one of the best food blog recipes of 2007!! Amusingly enough, I found this out while perusing my blog stats and clicking on a link I was unfamiliar with. The link took me to a page of the Best of 2007- Foodblogger’s Recipe Collection.  Entries came from many countries and I am delighted to be listed among such talented cooks and bloggers. My recipe is under the “U.S.” heading, of course, and is several entries down. How exciting- Happy New Year indeed!

-M : )

Kashi Apple Pancakes

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pears-with-oatmeal.jpg

Healthy and decadent are two words that seldom appear in the same sentence, but this breakfast is entitled to both descriptions. While winter doesn’t offer as plentiful a bounty as the other seasons, there is no excuse to exclude fruit from your breakfast. When its cold outside and snow covers the ground, all we can think about is heavy food- stews, braised meats, and tummy-warming baked goods- but in reality, these foods take our bodies out of balance. Sure these foods are nourishing, but often, they are more comforting to our inner child than beneficial to our physical selves. What I mean is, the foods we eat during winter time weigh us down; they make us lethargic, sleepy, and slow. They require so much energy to digest that we feel drained after such heavy meals. So many casseroles, meats, sausages, and potatoes, and too little veggies and fruits- why do we put our bodies through this?

Perhaps I am more sensitive than many, but these foods truly wreak havoc on my body and after a winter of heavy eating, I spend all of spring just getting my energy back. Is that large breakfast worth the bloating you’ll suffer through an hour later? Try this oatmeal and baked pear breakfast combo and you’ll soon realize that satisfying (there’s 10 grams of fiber per serving!) and heavy don’t have to be synonymous. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Oatmeal with Baked Pears

Serves 6

Oatmeal:

1 small slow cooker

1 cup steel cut oat groats (these can be found in most health food or natural food stores)

4 cups water

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tbsp vanilla

1/2 cup maple syrup

1 tbsp chinese five spice powder (optional)

Method:

1. Dump ingredients into a small slow cooker, stir to combine, and cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-5 hours. In the last hour of cooking, open top and stir in cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup and five spice powder, if using. Place top back on and finish cooking.

2. Place cooked oatmeal in a large container, cool, and score top of oatmeal with a knife to mark six even sections.

Baked Pears:

6 bartlett pears, ripe but not mushy

3/4 cup golden raisins

3/4 cup dried cranberries (the higher the quality the better)

2 cups boiling water

1 Tbsp cinnamon

2 Tbsp brown sugar

cooking spray

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and spray ceramic or glass baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Halve and core pears. Place cut side up in baking dish. Soak raisins and cranberries in 2 cups boiling water for 10 minutes.

3. Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in a small dish and sprinkle over cut sides of pears. Drain raisins and cranberries, but save the liquid, and place in the holes in the pears where the core used to be. Pour soaking liquid from dried fruit into the bottom of the baking dish.

4. Bake covered with aluminum foil for 35-45 minutes, or until pears are soft and a knife pierced into a pear faces no resistance.

pears-after-baking.jpg

Pears soft and juicy after a long, hot bath in the oven!

Final preparation:

1. Place 1/6th of oatmeal in 6 separate bowls and add 1/4 cup of water (a little less if you like really thick oatmeal) to each bowl. Microwave each bowl on high for 2 minutes (approx) and top each with two stuffed pear halves. Enjoy!

-M : )

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pecan-pie.jpg

I used to work at this company where a few of my friends who like to cook would get together every Wednesday and one person would make lunch for the rest of the group. People in the group called it the “lunch club”, while people who wished they were in the group called it the “finer things club” because it reminded them of the club by the same name in The Office. While we didn’t sit around reading poetry and sipping tea from fine china the way they do in The Office, we were very lucky to have incredibly good food one day a week. Needless to say, while they were excited to have a culinary school grad a part of their club, I felt honored to be included. To shake things up for the holidays, we decided to have a potluck last week instead of burdening one person with cooking an entire holiday meal.

Now I choose to bring dessert for one reason and one reason only- it was an excuse to make my mom’s chocolate bourbon walnut pie. Now I know what you’re thinking- that’s not the title of the post! You promised Chocolate Pecan Pie and who said anything about Bourbon?? Well, us girls on a budget can’t buy bourbon just to add 1/4 cup in a pie, and we also can’t go searching around town for walnuts when there aren’t any at the supermarket. Thankfully, pecans are a great subsitute, and despite being non-alcoholic, its still going to be your new favorite Chocolate Pecan Pie. And if you don’t have an old favorite, you’re really in for a treat!

Now before I go into the recipe, I’ve got to say, corn syrup is not my favorite ingredient. It has no nutritional value, it spikes your blood sugar, and it can be substituted with honey when an invert sugar is called for in a recipe (such as in fudge making). However, I have found that in pecan pie, corn syrup lends the perfect texture to the finished product; the pie remains moist, the nuts distribute evenly, and there’s never a grainy feel in your mouth from crystallized sugar. So if you’re opposed to nutritionally devoid ingredients like corn syrup, feel free to substitute honey here, but if you’re willing to loosen the reigns this once, use corn syrup.

pecan-pie-slice-2.jpg

Mmm..don’t you love it when the top gets golden and caramelized?

Your New Favorite Chocolate Pecan Pie

Serves 8

  • 1 (9 inch) pie shell
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

2. In a bowl over simmering water, combine sugar, corn syrup, and butter. Stir over medium-low heat until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Take off the heat and cool slightly.

3. While the sugar mixture cools, sprinkle chocolate chips over the pie shell.

4. In a large bowl combine eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, and salt. Whisking constantly, slowly pour sugar mixture into egg mixture. Stir in pecans. Pour mixture into pie shell, over the chocolate chips.

5. Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the center is just set and the top is golden. The pie is great warm, but I prefer it at room temperature, once the texture has fully set. Serve with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, or even creme fraiche, which counters its sweetness. Enjoy!

-M : )

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    pork-chops-with-stuffed-tomatoes.jpg

    Tonight’s dinner was both simple and impressive- simple for the chef, impressive for the bf. Does weeknight cooking get any better than that? I named these pork chops “Autumn” since they share the plate with mushroom-stuffed tomatoes. Stuffing, in any form, epitomizes fall to me, and here, crammed inside hollow tomatoes, it enriches a would-be tasteless fruit this time of year.

    The pan sauce is simple and efficient and there’s no need to follow my recipe if you don’t have cherry tomatoes on hand (they can be kind of pricey this time of year). Instead, replace the cherry tomatoes with the chopped innards you removed from the large tomatoes and save yourself 4 bucks. The point of adding tomatoes is twofold: color and acidity. While the pan sauce has thyme in it, the red perks up the color while simultaneously balancing the stock-based sauce. The sauce, having been thickened with flour, needs the acidity to draw it out of “dullsville,” as my mother would say. No need to go there- sliced cherry tomatoes, tomato scraps, or even some lemon juice, will keep you far away.

    No story necessary for this dinner, its just good, fresh, healthy food. Oh, and the stuffed tomatoes are an excellent vessel for getting more veggies into your child’s diet (or your boyfriend’s!). An untrained palate will never know there are mushrooms hiding in there, but the body that mouth feeds will reap the benefits. Enjoy! : )

    Autumn Pork Chops with Stuffed Tomatoes

    Serves 2

    2 boneless pork chops
    2 3” wide tomatoes, insides removed so only 1/2″ thick shell remains
    3 large mushrooms, diced
    1 small yellow onion, diced, separated in two equal portions
    2 ribs celery, diced, separated in two equal portions
    1 tsp fresh thyme (dried can be substituted), separated into 2 equal portions
    1/2 cup bread crumbs
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    1 1/2 cups chicken stock
    2 tbsp parmesean, grated
    1/2 cup (about 8-10) grape tomatoes, thinly sliced
    1 tbsp flour (all purpose works well)
    salt and pepper to taste
    oil for sauteing vegetables (about 2 tbsp)

    Method:

    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees and place cover a small cookie sheet or ovensafe dish with a layer of aluminum foil.

    2. In a small saute pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add mushrooms and one portion each of onions and celery. Season with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Saute until golden over medium high heat, about 5 minutes.

    3. Turn the heat to low, add 1/2 cup chicken stock and mix well.

    4. Take the pan off the heat, add breadcrumbs and 1/2 tsp thyme to pan, and once the mixture has cooled slightly, add the egg and mix well.

    5. Using a spoon, distribute the stuffing evenly into the two tomatoes. Pack tightly and place the tomatoes on the aluminum foil covered baking sheet and transfer to oven. Cook for 25 minutes or until stuffing is golden.

    mushroom-stuffed-tomatoes.jpg

    Stuffed tomatoes ready for the oven!

    6. While tomatoes bake, place heavy skillet over high heat and season pork chops with salt and pepper. Add pork chops to pan and leave undisturbed for 4-5 minutes, until topsides look very moist and the sides look cooked halfway up. Flip and cook other side until you have reached your desired level of doneness.

    7. Remove pork chops to clean cutting board to rest and redistribute juices; reduce heat to medium high and add tomatoes and remaining portions of onions, celery, and thyme to the pan. Cook until golden, add flour and incorporate well, then add remaining chicken stock and raise heat to high.

    pan-sauce.jpg

    Thickening the pan sauce

    8. Cook until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon and turn off the heat. At this point the stuffed tomatoes are ready, so take them out of the oven and place one on each plate. Top each with 1 tbsp parmesean. Place one pork chop on each plate and spoon desired amount of sauce over each. Serve and enjoy!

    -M : )

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    finished-pumpkin-bars-2.jpg

    Of all four seasons, autumn has the best food. Its like Goldilocks and the three (well, four..) bears: Winter’s food is too heavy, Summer (and Spring) food is too light, and Autumn’s just right. Vegetables and Fruits get the attention they deserve, and the spices are warm without being heavy, simultaneously sweet and savory. It is often a time of indulgence, as people are eager to make desserts with the apples, pears, pumpkins, and even sweet potatoes that crowd the market shelves, but our bodies are pushed back into balance by the amount of nutrients in the available food: brussel sprouts, winter squash, leeks, green beans, and broccoli, are a few that come to mind (in addition to those mentioned above, of course).

    Using fruits and vegetables in desserts has always been an interest of mine. I much prefer zucchini breads, banana muffins, sweet potato pies and berry cobblers to cheesecakes, pecan pies, and other (in my opinion) more cloying treats. Produce in desserts adds depth of flavor, texture, color, and boosted nutrition. Its also a great way to help introduce kids to unfamiliar and perhaps intimidating foods.

    This recipe for Pumpkin Ginger Bars is special then, in two ways: it’s in tune with the season and it includes some healthy ingredients (like molasses, cinnamon, and pumpkin). It’s also the most addictive baked good I’ve ever made. The lightness of the filling combined with the chewy, crunchy base provides a textural contrast that most desserts lack. For me, when I have pumpkin pie, I find the crust to be superfluous, unnecessary, almost a dilution of the filling’s flavor. Not so with these; the crust is made with ginger snaps, and then covered in a thin layer of caramel, pairing perfectly with the homemade pumpkin filling. The filling is incredible on its own, but you’ll never leave tasteless crust behind when you eat these. So take a little time this afternoon to appreciate and share autumn’s bounty with these Pumpkin Ginger Bars. With two of these warm from the oven, a cup of mulled cider and a good book, you’ll be fully equipped for a cozy afternoon : )

    Pumpkin Ginger Bars
    Makes 28 bars

    For Crust:
    30 2″ gingersnap cookies (I like Sweetzels brand), crushed in a food processor
    1/2 cup butter, melted
    1/8 cup brown sugar

    For Caramel layer:
    2 bags Werther’s classic chewy caramels
    1/2 cup milk
    3 tbsp butter

    For Pumpkin filling:
    1 15oz. can pumpkin puree
    1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
    2 eggs, lightly beaten
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 tbsp cinnamon
    1 tsp vanilla
    1/2 tsp nutmeg
    1/8 cup molasses

    Method:

    1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees and grease a 13 x 9 in. pan (glass works especially well).

    2. Combine the cookie crumbs, butter, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Dump the mixture into the greased pan and distribute evenly over the bottom. The mixture will be very crumbly but don’t worry. Press it down lightly with your hands and make sure the crust extends to the edges of the pan.

    pumpkin-bar-base.jpg

    3. Bake the crust blind for 10 minutes in the 425 degree oven to help it firm up. Don’t let it get too brown!

    4. Unwrap caramels and place in a bowl over a pot of simmering water to melt. Add 1/2 cup milk and 3 tbsp butter to the bowl. Once caramels have melted, stir the mixture until it is fully incorporated and keep it over the double boiler to remain warm.

    caramel-mixture.jpg

    5. When the crust is ready, pour the caramel mixture over the crust and spread delicately to distribute it evenly over the crust’s surface. It will be thin, but there is exactly enough.

    6. Combine all remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over the caramel, again distributing the filling evenly.

    pumpkin-batter.jpg

    E. Bake for 15 minutes at 425 then lower oven to 350 and finish cooking for 35 more minutes. Bars are done when the top feels firm and the filling no longer jiggles in the center.

    Note: I recommend letting these cool to room temp before slicing them, and when you do slice them, make sure you use a sharp knife and press down firmly- the bottom crust is very dense. Additionally, I would refridgerate these, or they will be incredibly chewy. The fridge makes the crust crunchy rather than chewy and I tend to find them even better this way.

    Enjoy!

    -M : )

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    Kashi Apple Pancakes

    I wrote a post a little while ago about using Pimms in turkey meatballs to avoid wasting it. Not surprisingly, it appears alcohol is not the only item in my cupboard that is in need of creative application! I opened a box of Kashi Go Lean cereal around the time I moved to DC two months ago and since I spend quite a bit of time at D’s place and also have breakfast provided at my office, its been sitting there, half full, since then…

    Two month old cereal is not my idea of an appealing breakfast, no matter how hungry I am, but I’m disinclined to just chuck it- I mean, I had made those muffins with Smart Bran cereal a while back, and while that was fresh cereal, after it was soaked in milk, that couldn’t have made a big difference, right? So, I thought this Saturday morning, equipped with a fully stocked fridge, I’d make pancakes with my stale cereal. I figured, there is a similar preparation for both muffins and pancakes, so the cereal-soaking method could work nicely in my plan to use cereal in another warm preparation.

    Before I go into the actual recipe, I must stay I did have trepidations about using Kashi Go Lean in the recipe rather than another cereal like cheerios or corn pops or anything less packed with fiber. I thought, isn’t this cereal going to make crunchy pancakes? That didn’t sound very appetizing… My goal was to make the cereal indistinguishable from the batter; to thicken it without standing out. Let me tell you, the food gods were behind me this morning. : )

    The only evidence of cereal in this batter was the thickness it gave. As each pre-softened nugget of cereal melted into the batter as it was surrounded by the heat of the pan, it somehow retained its shape without adding any crunch, giving way to impossibly fluffy yet hearty pancakes! I added 1 fuji apple (diced) to sweeten the pancakes and add another dimension of flavor, but feel free to omit it. So now, I share with you my second cupboard-raiding recipe: cereal reincarnated. It’s not only a great use of another would-be wasted pantry item, but depending on which cereal you’ve neglected, it can also be a great way to sneak more fiber into your morning meal! Enjoy : )

    Kashi Apple Pancakes
    Serves 4

    1 1/2 cups Kashi Go Lean cereal (or cereal of choice)

    1 cup milk

    1 cup flour

    1 1/2 tsp baking powder (baking soda is fine to substitute, though)

    2 tsp cinnamon

    1/2 tsp salt

    2 eggs

    2 tbsp butter, melted

    1 tbsp sugar

    1/2 cup vanilla yogurt

    1 apple, diced (I prefer Fuji) -optional

    Method:

    1. Combine cereal and milk in a small bowl and let sit for 15 minutes.

    2. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.

    3. When the cereal has almost finished soaking, lightly beat the eggs in another separate bowl and whisk in the melted butter, sugar, and yogurt. Stir in the diced apples, if using.

    4. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir just until combined. Do not overmix or the pancakes will be tough.

    5. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls onto a medium-hot skillet and flip when the bubbles that appear on top of the pancakes begin to pop. Finish cooking on the other side and serve.

    Cooking pancakes

    Such a chunky batter! I was sure these would never be light and tender, but thankfully I was wrong!

    flipped pancakes

    Mmm..almost ready…

     

    D and I ate these with maple syrup and boysenberry jam (utterly delicious), but anyway you choose to serve these, enjoy!

    -Maddy : )

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