Friday, December 31, 2010

Top Ten Recipes of 2010

Happy New Year!

Here are the top ten recipes of 2010, by number of page views. This list is really close to our ten favorite recipes of 2010 as well!

Some recipes and runners-up from 2009 that were popular this year are:

Here's to a great 2011! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soft Gingersnaps

Who doesn't love gingersnaps?! Especially around the holidays! These are the best gingersnaps I've ever had! They are FULL of spice and flavor, and so soft!

Stew's dad said he didn't like gingersnaps, but once he tried these, he changed his mind!

Soft Gingersnaps
[recipe adapted from two peas and their pod]

3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup molasses (I use Brer Rabbit's Full Flavor Molasses—SO GOOD!)
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt (if using salted butter, use slightly less salt)
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
Pinch of nutmeg (can use fresh)
White sugar for rolling

Preheat oven to 375º. With a mixer, combine butter and brown sugar until smooth and creamy, a couple minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla extract. Mix until well combined. Add in the molasses. Mix until the molasses is combined with the other ingredients. With the mixer on low, slowly add flour, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Mix, scraping sides, until flour is combined.
Form the dough into tablespoon-sized balls. Roll the dough in white sugar. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone liner. Can press cookies down slightly (I never do, they flatten enough on their own).
Bake for 8–10 minutes, NO longer than 10 minutes (or else they won't be soft). Let the cookies sit on the baking sheet for a couple minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack.

I froze some dough last week, and I'm thinking it's already time to take it out of the freezer so I can bake more!!!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chocolate Candy Cane Crunch Cookies

I forget how GOOD these cookies are when I only make them around Christmas time! The crushed candy canes melt on the outside of the cookies, making them not only delicious, but beautiful and festive too! They taste similar to Girl Scout Thin Mints, or Mint Oreos, but WAY better because they are homemade! These are the perfect cookies to make for company!

Promise me you'll make them—they are one of my top favorite holiday cookies!!

Chocolate Candy Cane Crunch Cookies
[adapted from two peas and their pod]

1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup cocoa
10 candy canes, crushed

Preheat oven to 375º. Line baking sheets with parchment or silicone liners. Blend sugar, brown sugar and butter together in a bowl. Add eggs and vanilla and blend well. Add flour, soda, cocoa and mix until thoroughly distributed.
Pour crushed candy canes onto a plate or shallow bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll into crushed candy canes, so all sides are covered. Place two inches apart on prepared baking sheets.
Bake for 7–10 minutes, slightly longer for crunchier cookies. Let cool for 3 minutes on pan, then move to cooling racks.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Maggie's Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup

In October, I went to my friend, Holly's house for a girls' night. We each brought a recipe to share and Holly made pumpkin cookies and this amazing butternut squash soup. She got the recipe from another good friend, Maggie (here's the link to the original recipe).

[Sorry, this picture really does not do the soup justice!]

I was a little afraid to eat it, since I was still in my first trimester and only eating really bland foods, but once I did, I was glad I didn't pass it up! It is the perfect fall/winter soup. There is a hint of cinnamon and cloves, which enhances the sweet butternut squash. The beans add a great texture, and the bacon is the salt (don't leave this out!). The soup was spicier than I expected—a pleasant surprise—but could easily be taken down a notch by reducing the cayenne pepper. It goes perfectly with a nice salty breadstick or roll!

Maggie's Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup

6 slices bacon (I used turkey bacon)
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups peeled and chopped butternut squash (a medium to small squash should work, I had a lot leftover)
4 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground red pepper (this is a small amount, but the soup was almost too spicy for me)
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 cup whipping cream (I used fat-free evaporated milk, and a whole can because I didn't want it to go to waste)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh oregano (I used 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 15-oz cans Great Northern white beans, rinsed and drained
3 Tbsp unsalted pumpkinseed kernels, toasted (optional)

Cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan, reserving about 2 teaspoons of bacon drippings (or if you're using turkey bacon, just add olive oil to the pan). Crumble the bacon and set aside. In a large pot, add onion, celery and garlic to bacon drippings. Cook about 3 minutes until tender. Add squash; cook 3 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1/4 cup chicken broth and stir until the liquid almost evaporates. Stir in the remaining broth, cumin, red pepper, cinnamon and cloves (and oregano if using dried). Bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes or until squash is tender. Stir in cream, oregano, salt, pepper and beans. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Sprinkle each serving with bacon and pumpkinseeds (if desired). Makes about 6 portions (1 1/2 cups each).

*Another yummy way to take down the heat a little is adding sour cream to the bowl.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cranberry Sauce

While I don't have the time to test recipes and give you the perfect cranberry sauce recipe just in time for Thanksgiving, I wanted to share a few from trusted sources that piqued my interest! Thanks to those who emailed recipes!

Cranberry, Ginger & Orange Chutney from A Bountiful Kitchen

Maple Brown Sugar Cranberry Sauce from Baking Bites

Sweet and Spicy Cranberry Sauce from Let's Dish - this one sounds right up my alley, as I don't love regular cranberry sauce with turkey, a little heat might really "spice things up" ;)

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce from Two Peas and Their Pod

If you try any of these, let us know how it turns out!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pumpkin Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli

Stew named this pasta "Pumpkin Gratitude Pasta," but so you would know what it is, I named it otherwise. ;)
I got this recipe from my friend Holly's friend Lindsey (confusing enough?). We had a girls' night and Holly made a delicious butternut squash soup (I'm making it soon, so watch for the recipe). We exchanged recipes, and this recipe really intrigued me! In college, I was dubbed the pumpkin queen, because once fall rolled around, it was all about the pumpkin desserts!! I've never made a savory dish (besides soup) with pumpkin, so I thought I'd give it a go.
I'm so glad I did—it was delicious! The pumpkin makes the pasta so creamy, without adding fat like cheese would! There is also a hint of spicy sweetness, from cinnamon and cloves. I thought the spicy Italian sausage was perfect in this, I think any other sausage might make the pasta too sweet. And the broccoli added great texture! I'll definitely be making this again!!

[ Sorry, this picture doesn't look that appetizing, but trust's good! ]

Pumpkin Pasta with Sausage and Broccoli

1 lb pasta
1 1/2 cups broccoli
1/2 lb spicy Italian sausage (I think I did a whole pound, turkey sausage as usual)
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (I don't have this so I just did a couple shakes of cinnamon and a shake of cloves)
1 1/4 cups half-and-half (I used a 12-oz can of evaporated milk)
1 heaping cup canned pumpkin
2 Tbsp brown sugar (I omitted this, it seemed too sweet)
1/4 tsp salt

Cook pasta as directed and add broccoli 2–3 minutes before pasta is done.
Meanwhile, cook sausage on medium heat until browned. Drain fat. Stir in pumpkin pie spice. Cook one minute. Stir in half-and-half, pumpkin, sugar and salt. Cook one minute longer, stirring everything together.
Serve! Can top with parmesan cheese.

The pumpkin queen lives on! ;)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Caramel Apple Pie

I found the recipe I used two years ago (as well as last year) on a loose sheet of paper by my cook books, so I'm not quite sure where exactly it came from, but there are a lot of similar recipes online.
This pie is delicious—really rich and gooey and crunchy. Instead of a regular pie crust top, it has a crumb and caramel topping. :) Yum!

[Sorry, not the best photo. I took it a couple years ago]

Caramel Apple Pie

One 9-inch pie crust (recipe here)
1/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
5 1/2 cups peeled and thinly sliced apples (I used green apples)

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup butter

Crunchy Caramel Topping:
1/2 cup chopped pecans (toasted if you like)
1/3 cup caramel or butterscotch ice cream sauce

Heat oven to 375º. Prepare pie crust and place in 9-inch pan, crimping edges.
In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt. Toss the apples with the sugar mixture and pour them into the prepared crust.
With a fork or pastry cutter, combine the crumb topping ingredients until well mixed. Sprinkle the topping over the apple mixture (pie might be heaping now, but it's okay—it settles a little once the apples are cooked).
Bake pie for 20–30 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Cover pie with foil and bake for another 20 minutes, until the apples are tender. Remove the pie from the oven and sprinkle on the pecans. Drizzle caramel sauce on top. Cool on a wire rack.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Aunt Mara's Stuffing

When I asked Mara if I could post her (mother's) recipe, she said I “might seriously underwhelm [my] readership.” ;) It's not the most difficult stuffing recipe, nor are there any ingredients that make it “gourmet,” like sausage or apples or pecans. But it's my favorite stuffing recipe, and I know a lot of people in my family feel the same way! It's a fairly easy recipe (and it is so delicious), here it is for you!

Aunt Mara's Stuffing

24 cups cubed (about three jelly roll pans), dried bread* (leave out or dry in oven)
2 cubes of butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3 cups chopped celery
1 Tbsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 Tbsp dried sage
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk
2–3 (14.5 oz) cans chicken broth
2 eggs

* Mara said her mom uses homemade bread, but if you don't want to make homemade bread, buy some nice artisanal bread

Place cubed bread in LARGE pan or bowl.
In a medium saucepan, add butter, onion and celery. Melt butter and cook until onions and celery are soft and slightly translucent. Stir in salt, pepper and dried sage.
Pour butter mixture over bread and distribute evenly.
Pour evaporated milk and chicken broth over bread and “stir until fairly gooey.”
Beat two eggs and stir in.
Flatten stuffing in greased pan. Bake at 350º for about an hour.

Mmmmm....I can almost taste it now! Can't wait to have it at Thanksgiving!

I hope you'll try this recipe (even if it's not for Thanksgiving, just half the recipe), and let us know how you like it!

Thanks, Mara!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Must-Haves

Whoa—time is flying by. One minute I find out I'm pregnant, the next I'm getting a (small) belly and have neglected this food blog for months! I am SO sorry and will really try to be better!!

I haven't been too adventurous trying new recipes lately (now that things finally sound good again, I can't eat very spicy foods unless I want heartburn), but I do have a few recipes to share.

What are your family's Thanksgiving dinner must-haves? You know, the things you have every year, made the same way, and just love them (even though they might not be the most extravagant foods).

Here's my list, that might also help the procrastinator who is putting Thanksgiving dinner together ;)

  • Turkey (duh)- simple and roasted in the oven
  • Stuffing (another duh)- my Aunt Mara makes the BEST homemade stuffing ever. Recipe (hopefully) coming soon!
  • Sweet Potatoes/Yams- with marshmallows (old school style) or carmelized nuts on top!
  • Mashed Potatoes and Gravy- basic but sooo yummy!
  • Rolls- I love when we make these rolls for Thanksgiving! So festive!!
  • Cranberry sauce- honestly, I could probably do without it, but always put a little dot on my plate because it's festive. I need to find a good recipe. Do you go with canned or homemade?
  • Green Beans with Almondsthis recipe looks absolutely divine
  • Veggie Platter- you know, for all the snacking and chatting while everyone is getting things ready
Desserts have their own list :)
  • PUMPKIN PIE- this is a must have!! And lots of it! You can't run out of pumpkin pie!
  • Apple pie- I made a GREAT caramel apple pie last year. I'll post the recipe soon!
  • Banana Cream Pie- totally not a Thanksgiving food, but my mom makes it almost every year, and I always take a slice (one- because I love it and two- because it's on the better-for-you side). Recipe here.
  • Pecan Pie- this wasn't a must-have for me until I made this bittersweet chocolate pecan pie...and I'm making it again this year!
  • Any other kind of dessert, really- this includes but is not limited to: cherry pie, chocolate pie, haupia pie, cheesecake (ooh! ooh! pumpkin cheesecake!!!), pumpkin blondies, pumpkin crunch, ice cream, cookies, and cookies
So just to recap (for myself) the recipes I will be posting asap:
  • Aunt Mara's stuffing recipe (if she'll give it to me!)
  • A good cranberry sauce recipe (if you have one, let me know!)
  • Caramel apple pie
That should keep me busy for a while! ;)

What are the foods you just HAVE to have at Thanksgiving dinner?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Does Buying in Bulk Save You Money?

Hello fellow foodies! Yes, it's me, Stew! While my wife is still in a "food funk" (being pregnant and all), I figured I would make our next food posting. Now lest you all think that I am totally oblivious to our blog...I'll have you know that I am very involved "behind the scenes".

For those of you who don't know me, let me tell you a little bit about myself:
I am 28 years old.
I love my wife (very much).
I love food.
I am a financial advisor by profession.
And, I will find ANY WAY that I can to translate everything that I do in life back to finance. :)

So for a while I've been wanting to do a little research. About a year ago, the wife and I got a membership to a wholesale food store (Sam's Club--it's the closest one to us). They charge us $40 a year for our membership. Over the years, I have been told that buying in "bulk" will save us money over the long run. But I was skeptical. I don't always trust what people say. I have to find things out for myself. So this weekend, Lindsey let me indulge in a little finance research. We spent close to 4 hours comparing the prices of some of our commonly purchased items at both Sam's Club and Smith's Grocery Store.

I think you'll be here to see the research (and to print a pdf if you want).

We thought we were saving more by buying store brand products at Smiths...but in reality (on some items) we could actually buy name brand at Sam's Club cheaper!

Please keep in mind that while wholesale stores are have to SAVE AT LEAST the price of your membership fee (annually) to breakeven. If you don't then it's NOT worth the membership. We have 2 months to go before our 12 month membership is up...and so far we have save $ we have saved $1.11. But until now, we really haven't been using it very often. BUT WE WILL NOW.

Okay foodies--tell us. Where have you found food the cheapest? Do you use wholesale stores or local grocery stores? Do you use coupons to get that low price? Tell us...I'm sure everybody would like to know. ;)

Enough money talk...I know you all want more recipes. I'll have to bug Lindsey to step it up now that she's past her first trimester. ;) I think she's finally getting her appetite back.

: : lindSTEWfoodies : :

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Mummy Dogs (aka Pigs in a Blanket)

Happy Halloween! I wish I had some more festive recipes for you—I've thought about it, I promise. It just never happened. But check out these, these, these, and these if you need some inspiration (and don't click here if you have morning sickness or a weak stomach).

But I do have one recipe for you. And I hate to admit this, but since I've been pregnant I've made pigs in a blanket at least three times. And not homemade at all...straight from a can of crescent rolls. Are you appalled? Because I am, slightly, well...not so much. ;) I think it's good to make easy dinners sometimes (or most of the time, like me now), for sanity's sake. And at least I used reduced fat dough right? And the last time I made them I used turkey dogs (healthy but gross—Angus Ball Park Franks are WAY better).
I jazzed them up for Halloween—mummy dogs! Aren't they so cute??

So here's a recipe that your kiddos will love (and the kid in you will love too).

Mummy Dogs

2 cans refrigerated crescent roll tubes (16 rolls), or breadstick dough
8 hotdogs
ketchup, mustard as desired

Unwrap crescent rolls. Separate each package into four rectangles (not separating dough on diagonal lines). With a pizza cutter, cut length-wise into 4–6 small strips.
Wrap the hotdogs with the dough, one rectangle of dough per hotdog, leaving a small opening for eyes to peek out.
Bake according to directions on crescent roll package, until golden brown.
Dot with two eyes of mustard! Serve with ketchup (blood). ;)

And here's a little creation of mine. I was being creative with vegetables. Cucumber ghost (with soy sauce eyes and mouth)!

Happy Halloween from Stew (left) and Lindsey (right)!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sometimes You (meaning I) Just Don't Feel Like Cooking

You may have noticed the decline of yummy recipes being posted the past couple months. Life has not only been busy, but I haven’t felt like much of a foodie lately.

I don’t make delicious dinners anymore. I don’t EAT delicious dinners anymore. I don’t enjoy reading other yummy food blogs anymore. I don’t think about food multiple times a day—in fact, I try to avoid thinking about food as much as possible. I don’t have much of an appetite and I’ve just been eating what sounds good (so it doesn’t come back up), which is usually oatmeal, scrambled eggs, toast, rice, cheese cheese and more cheese, quesadillas, bland pasta, baked potatoes, pb&j's, and...(gasp) even Kraft macaroni and cheese—two boxes in two days to be exact—I disgust myself (Stew had to stop at the store on the way home from work and pick up four boxes for me, because we’ve NEVER had this in the house). Soda for breakfast, or even at all? Never before now. Even if I did have an appetite, I’m too exhausted to cook a dinner that involves more than pouring pre-made sauce on chicken and sticking it in the oven (which is what I make for Stew most nights). I avoid nearly all vegetables and even fruit most the time! I don’t eat meat anymore, unless it’s shredded in (bland) soup or ground in (bland) pasta sauce. Grocery shopping now? Gag me!

What is wrong with me, you ask? Why the sudden dislike of food? Have you guessed yet?

There’s a bun in the oven! That’s right! And although this past couple months has been a little tough (for both me AND Stew—who’s wondering what happened to his foodie wife and the good dinners), I wouldn’t change a thing! Hopefully I’ll enjoy food again soon, seeing as I’m almost to the second trimester. Our little foodie is due May 10, 2011. We are SO excited to be parents!

Now you know (“and knowing is half the battle,” as Stew would say). I hope you can forgive me for my lack of blogging. Hopefully I’ll be back soon. Until then, why don’t you check out some pumpkin recipes from last year!

Thanks for sticking with us!

: : lindstewNOTfoodiesatthemoment : :


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pomegranate Seeds over Vanilla Ice Cream

Tomorrow is the first day of fall! Can you believe it?!

Stew's family celebrates the Autumnal Equinox by making homemade vanilla ice cream and topping it with fresh pomegranate seeds. It sounds so simple, but it is phenomenal (even with store-bought ice cream)!

[ photo found online ]

Some of the pomegranate seeds burst and color the ice cream, and some of the seeds slightly freeze. The fiber center of the seeds, which can sometimes be annoying and too crunchy, adds a nice texture to the ice cream.

Try it for the first day of fall tomorrow!

What do you do to celebrate fall?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tres Leches Cake- Topped with Fresh Peaches

We recently had fresh peaches on tres leches cake! It was delectable! Possibly better than strawberries!

Go here for the original posting with the recipe.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chinese Noodle Stir Fry

If you don't know already, I love stir-fry dishes. They are so easy, you can throw whatever you have into the pan, and they are delicious! Here's a great version I came up with that has noodles instead of rice. It was yuuuuuuuummy!

Chinese Noodle Stir Fry
[recipe by me]

1 small package of pre-cooked Chinese noodles, stir fry noodles (usually found in the produce section)
2 chicken breasts, sliced or diced (I love using my food processor for this!)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 Tbsp oil
Veggies of choice: zucchini, carrots, green beans, bell peppers, broccoli, etc.
1/4–1/2 cup water
5 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp hoisin sauce*
1 tsp sugar
1/2 Tbsp crushed red pepper
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Chopped cashews or peanuts for topping, optional

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken until browned on the outside and cooked through. Turn heat down to medium and add garlic and ginger; stir. Add veggies and stir. Add about 1/4 cup (or more) water to the pan and cover with lid to allow the veggies to steam. Cook for about ten minutes, until veggies are tender but still crisp.
Meanwhile, mix sauce together by combining soy sauce, hoisin, sugar, crushed red pepper, and lime juice.
Add noodles to skillet, then add sauce. Stir to thoroughly distribute sauce. Sprinkle with chopped nuts before serving, if desired.

* If you don't have hoisin sauce, you can make your own. Check out this post for directions!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ratatouille Soup

With the abundance of summer veggies we have—zucchini, eggplant, squash, tomatoes—I wanted to make ratatouille. I've wanted to make ratatouille ever since we saw the movie actually. We love that movie, I love seeing the animated food!

So I used my creativity in the kitchen and made a ratatouille soup! I was surprised at how good it was, when I didn't use a recipe! I wrote down what I did, so you can make it too!

3 Italian eggplants (also called baby or finger eggplants), thinly sliced; or 1 regular eggplant, diced
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 links of sweet Italian sausage (or spicy if you wish), casings removed
2 8oz. can of tomato sauce
2 tomatoes, chopped
5 cups chicken broth
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
1/4–1/2 tsp pepper
1 cup couscous

Heat large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and crumble with spatula. Cook until browned. Add onions and cook for a minute or two. Add garlic and cook for five minutes. Add eggplants, zucchini and squash and cook until veggies are slightly soft. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth and spices. Heat through. About 5 minutes before serving, add couscous and cook until done. Can top with cheese or croutons! *Can be made meatless.

Enjoy! And go watch Ratatouille! ;)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Broccoli Salad

Most broccoli salads I’ve had are good, until I start gagging on the big pieces of raw broccoli! I think that’s the problem with most broccoli what’s a girl to do? Blanch the broccoli! To blanch means to cook briefly in boiling water. So you bring water up to a boil, dump the broccoli (and cauliflower, which I absolutely HATE raw) in, boil it for only a minute, then transfer it to a pot of ice water (or just rinse it in cold water until it’s cold)! What do you get? Broccoli with bright color, great flavor and nice crunch that doesn’t make you gag. Perfect! Of course, if you love raw broccoli, go ahead and use raw. But trust me on this one, blanched is the way to go!

I really loved this salad and ate WAY too much of it (hey, at least it’s relatively healthy, right?). The dressing is GREAT and tastes similar to poppy seed dressing, only with less fat because I used low-fat mayo! It’s best eaten the first day you make it, but it still tastes good the second day, even if it is a little soggy. This makes a huge bowl, perfect for an end-of-summer family party! And really, you don’t have to measure anything (except the dressing), just get the ratios you like!
I found a bunch of broccoli salad recipes online and just compiled the best of each one into this one, so it’s FULL of everything! I love the texture of this salad with the many ingredients!

Broccoli Salad
[recipe by me]

4 cups fresh broccoli, chopped (about 3 nice-sized broccoli crowns)
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
1 red onion, chopped
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups frozen peas
1 cup raisins, grapes or craisins
6–8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 cup of Monterey Jack cheese
1–2 cups matchstick carrots, optional

1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
2 Tbsp fruity vinegar (such as apple cider vinegar)
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix all dressing ingredients together with a whisk until well combined. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow sugar to dissolve and combine. Bring large pot of water to a boil, add broccoli and cauliflower, and boil for 1–2 minutes. Transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water or rinse under very cold tap water. Pat dry with paper towels. Mix all salad ingredients together in a large bowl. Refrigerate until serving. Mix the dressing in just before serving, tossing well.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Dirty" Rice

The first time I had “dirty rice” was in college when my Texan roommate made it from a Zatarain’s box. She couldn’t believe that I’d never had it. It was pretty spicy for me then, but I think my taste buds have gotten more acquired to spicy foods since I’ve been in college—I love spicy food!
So with the plentiful stock of turkey sausage I have in my freezer (thank you sale on Jennie-O), I thought I’d make my own homemade “dirty” rice. Since I’m not from Louisiana, nor have I ever been there, I doubt my “dirty rice” was authentic at all (that’s why I keep using “quotes” around “dirty”). But it was still tasty!

Normally “dirty rice” has chicken liver or giblets (gag me!), which give the dark “dirty” color. It also includes green bell pepper, onion, and celery and is sometimes topped with parsley or green onions.
Well, my version is a whole lot healthier, with brown rice, turkey sausage with the fat drained off, and a whole load of veggies. I used a whole package of sausage, because we were eating it as a main dish. If you’re making it for a side, I’d recommend using about half the amount.

“Dirty” Rice
[recipe by me]

2 cups brown rice, uncooked (or leftover rice)
3–6 links of hot Italian turkey sausage (depending on how meaty you like it), casings removed
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2–3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 small yellow or white onion, chopped
2–4 green onions, chopped (optional)
Cajun seasoning (I used Cajun's Choice Blackened Seasoning)

Cook rice according to directions.
Heat large skillet over medium-high heat and cook turkey sausage, crumbling, until browned. Can drain off some oil if desired. Add bell pepper, celery and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are translucent, about 5–7 minutes.
Add rice to skillet and stir to combine. Liberally add cajun seasoning, to meet your desired heat.
Serve topped with green onions.

Dirrrrrty rice, done pretty clean! ;)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Chocolate Chip Pretzel M&M Cookie Bars

Last week I made Pretzel M&M Cookies from Two Peas and Their Pod. They were good, but turned out flat. This week, I wanted to make these Chocolate Chip & Pretzel Cookie Bars (check those out—she tops them with melted chocolate and peanut butter, to taste similar to Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby ice cream) from Brown Eyed Baker. But I only had half the amount of pretzels I needed, so I was resourceful and added some Pretzel M&Ms, and they turned out yummy! Better than the cookies I made the week before, and not flat at all!

Chocolate Chip Pretzel M&M Cookie Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 sticks butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chocolate chips
3/4 cup mini pretzel twists, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup Pretzel M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350º. Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray.
Using a mixer, beat the butter and both sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy, about one minute. Beat in the eggs and the vanilla extract. On low speed, beat in flour, soda and salt, until just incorporated. Stir in the pretzels, M&Ms, and chocolate chips.
Spread the batter evenly in the pan and press it down evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool in pan.

These were really good warm, but we liked them even better the next day, when they became chewy! Great with a nice cold glass of milk!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Spicy Chicken Taco Soup

The other night I wanted taco soup, but wanted to change it up a bit from the usual. It turned out a little broth-ier (totally not a word!) than usual, but was still plenty filling with beans, chicken, peppers and hominy (or corn). It was such a good flavor, a good change from regular taco soup—I was surprised how spicy/flavorful it was for how broth-y it looked! Definitely a winner! I started with this recipe, but changed it quite a bit, so here's mine.

Spicy Chicken Taco Soup

1 13 oz. can of chicken (or 2 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1/2 each red and green pepper, chopped
1–2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and chopped (I used canned, 1–2 Tbsp)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
11 oz can of Rotel tomatoes with green chiles, (or diced tomatoes and 1/2 can of green chiles)
1 14-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-oz. can hominy, or corn, drained
1 Tbsp chile powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups chicken broth
Juice from 1/2 a lime
Toppings: sliced green onions, cilantro, shredded cheese, sour cream, avocado, tortilla chips

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a soup pot. Add onions and saute 1 minute. Add all of the peppers and garlic, saute two minutes. Add spices and mix. Add tomatoes and mix. Add chicken broth, chicken, beans and bring to a simmer for at least 20 minutes. Add lime juice and let simmer just a few more minutes before serving.
Top with desired toppings and enjoy!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two Potato Salad with Spinach

I like sweet potatoes and yams, so this recipe, originally from the Food Network, intrigued me. It's a little spicier than your typical potato salad, and the sweet potatoes make it, obviously, sweeter. The spinach adds some nice color, and you don't notice it too much in the salad, since you also have crunchy celery and green onions. And it's healthy, subbing greek yogurt for most of the mayonnaise. Here's the recipe, with my changes.

Two Potato Salad with Spinach

1 lb. sweet potatoes (I used yams), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes (I used white), cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning
4 green onions, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 cup fat-free plain greek yogurt (or mayo or sour cream)
2 Tbsp low-fat mayonnaise
1–2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (I prefer less mustard)
2 serrano chiles, stemmed, seeded and minced (I just used hot sauce, to taste)
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh tarragon or 1 tsp dried (I subbed marjoram)
4–6 oz. baby spinach, chopped roughly
4 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled, optional (I didn't have this)

Put the sweet potatoes and Yukon gold potatoes in 2 separate saucepans. Cover the potatoes with water, add 1/2 tsp salt to each pot, and bring the pots to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer the potatoes until they are just cooked through and tender. The Yukon gold potatoes should be finished in about 12 minutes, the sweet potatoes will take a little longer, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool.

Meanwhile, combine yogurt, mayonnaise, mustard, tarragon, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Stir in green onions and celery. Toss to combine. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper, if needed.
When potatoes are completely cooled, toss in the potatoes and spinach.
To serve, garnish with bacon.

Let us know how you like it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Lettuce Wraps 2

So I know this is the second lettuce wrap recipe I've posted, but these are quite different than the other recipe. The other recipe used shredded chicken and a bottled sauce. This recipe uses ground turkey (or chicken), and a homemade sauce. The homemade sauce wins my vote!! I added more veggies to mine (shown as the "optional" ingredients). The original recipe (from changeable table) claims it's a "clone of the real-thing," and tastes just like P.F. Chang's lettuce wraps. Well, I don't totally agree with that, but they were close, and still good. This makes a great light dinner, or a fun appetizer.

Lettuce Wraps

1 lb ground turkey or chicken
1 small can water chestnuts, drained and chopped
1 white onion, chopped
2–3 cloves garlic, minced (2 Tbsp)
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2–1 bell pepper, chopped (optional)
2 stalks of celery, chopped (optional)
1/2 cup carrots, grated (optional)
1/4 cup hoisin sauce (in the Asian section of the store—don't skip this! Or you can make your own*)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp chili paste, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, etc. (I used hot sauce)
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/2 cup peanuts or cashews, optional
Iceberg or Bibb lettuce

A few hours before, core lettuce and rinse. Wrap in a paper towl, then in plastic and chill well. You want crisp lettuce!
In a large skillet, brown turkey with chopped onion. Before fully cooked, add celery and bell pepper. Cook until turkey is cooked through. Drain if desired (you might not have to if your turkey is lean).
Add water chestnuts, garlic, soy sauce, rice vinegar, chili paste, hoisin sauce and sesame oil. Continue to heat and stir until well blended and heated through. Add sliced green onions and heat just until they begin to wilt. Sprinkle with nuts and place in serving bowl and keep warm.
Separate lettuce into leaves, trimming of excess if desired. Place on plate. Serve with any oriental sauce of your choice (optional).

*How to make your own Hoisin sauce:
Mix together:
5 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp bean curd paste, or peanut butter (who has bean curd paste?!)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp hot sauce

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Lime and Coconut Crumble Bars

These have got to be one of my all-time FAVORITE desserts. Buttery, sugary crust, tart lime filling, and a coconut crumble topping?! Yes please!!

I'd been eyeing the recipe for a few days (thank you Baking Bites!), so when some friends stopped by last-minute, I whipped them up. However, I forgot to take into account the cooling we ate them slightly warm, and guess what? Still GREAT! But they are better room temperature, or even from the fridge!

These are a THOUSAND times better than regular lemon (or lime) bars. As in, I'd reeeeeeally have to be craving regular old lemon bars in order to make them over these babies.

So make them, would you? Please?

Lime and Coconut Crumble Bars

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup rolled oats, old fashioned or quick
1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat free!)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, or lemon juice (for me this was about 4 limes)
2 tsp lime zest, or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350º. Line a 9x9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil and grease lightly.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Add flour, baking powder and salt and mix until everything comes together in a crumbly mixture and flour is evenly distributed. Mix in oats and coconut. Mixture will be somewhat dry and crumbly.
In a medium bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, lime juice and lime zest.
Put 2 cups of the oat mixture into the bottom of prepared pan and press firmly into an even layer. Pour lime mixture on top and spread evenly. Crumble all remaining oat mixture oven the top of the lime mixture, covering completely.
Bake for 30–35 minutes, until golden brown.
Cool completely on wire rack before cutting into squares.

*Note: If you want to make a 9x13-inch pan, just double the recipe!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Summer Squash and Corn Chowder

This recipe has similar flavors to the Summer Corn Fettuccine recipe I recently posted, which is why I loved it! I usually don't like eating soups in the summer, but when it's such a fresh summer chowder, how can you resist?! Sweet corn and yellow squash, celery, and salty bacon and cheese on top make it the perfect summer meal. And it was easy!

Look closely and you can see the slices of squash (they look like cheese at first glance).

I made this soup even healthier by using fat-free half-and-half, and I love how rich and creamy the blended corn makes it! I added canned chicken to make it more filling and it was great!

Summer Squash and Corn Chowder [from Cooking Light]

1/4 cup chopped celery (I think I used more, like 2–3 stalks)
1 pound yellow summer squash, chopped
3–4 ears of corn, with corn sliced off, OR 1 pound frozen corn kernels (thawed)
3/4 cup sliced green onions, divided
2 cooked chicken breasts, shredded or thinly sliced (or 1 large can of chicken)
1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
1 cup fat-free half and half (or 2 1/4 cups low-fat milk instead of fat free milk and half and half)
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/8 tsp salt
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese, for topping
2 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped, for topping

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add squash, celery, and 1/2 cup of green onions to the pan, saute until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes.
Reserve 1 cup of corn; set aside. Place the remaining corn and 1 cup milk in a blender; process until smooth. Add remaining 1 1/4 cups milk (and half and half), thyme, 1/2 tsp salt, and pepper to blender and process until just combined. Add pureed mixture, chicken, and reserved 1 cup corn to the pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated, stirring constantly. Stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Ladle into bowls and top with bacon, remaining green onions, and cheese. Makes about 4 servings.

I served this chowder with homemade wheat French bread. Mm, mm, good!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Rating: Tuscany

We were recently invited to dinner at Tuscany, an award-winning Italian restaurant in Cottonwood Heights, with Senga and Joni. It is a large and beautiful dimly-lit restaurant surrounded by a forest (well, not really a forest—just trees), which makes for a secluded, picturesque dinner. It’s also a popular wedding dinner/reception venue (we only got a glance of the patio outside, but it looked large and nice). We had heard of it and were excited to go, since we'd probably never go there ourselves!
So let’s get to the food. As an appetizer we had a flatbread topped with smoked salmon. It came out and I was surprised to see caviar on top! This was something we’d never tried...

and honestly probably won’t try again. We like to try new things and branch out, but neither of us cared for the fishy taste. The appetizer as a whole was fun to try as well, but we think a lover of smoked salmon (which neither of us are) would like it better.

[I’m apologizing for the poor quality of the photos, it was really dark inside, so some are blown out with the flash, and some are dark—Photoshop only fixes so much.]

The salads were fresh, with a light vinaigrette. They were good.

Time for the main course. The presentation was great on all the dishes and when they came to the table we oohed and awed.

Stew ordered the biggest rib-eye I've ever seen (good thing Stew didn't eat the whole thing, he would have had a heart attack!) was cooked perfectly and was tender and juicy.

I got the salmon crusted in pancetta pesto. But honestly, I don't think it was pancetta or tasted like breadcrumbs to me. But it was still delicious salmon! Right up there with the best salmon I've had (made by friends Ryan and Lisa—Ry's a pro at grilling salmon)!

Senga and Joni both got white fish, one was the fish of the day, the other is halibut (not sure which is which). We had a bite of them and they were really smooth and delicious.

We tried three different desserts. Stew got the strawberry shortcake, which was probably our favorite dessert out of the three, with a dense more savory cake to compliment the sweet strawberries.

We also got peach cobbler, which I was disappointed with because it wasn’t even hot! I’ve never had cold cobbler, and in my opinion, the best part of eating cobbler is the hot cobbler and cold ice cream!

We also tried the creme brulee, which was a good creme brulee with a thick sugary crust on top.

We left pretty full, and honestly could have done without the desserts, but it was a nice (nice meaning fancy and tasty) dinner.

Here’s our official rating:

If you get the chance to dine at Tuscany, let us know how you liked it!

Thanks again Senga and Joni for the great dinner and company!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Zucchini Noodles

Here's an easy "replacement" for pasta, for all you low-carbers, gluten-free-ers, calorie-cutters and healthy eaters out there, and it's actually pretty good. Well, good as in "this doesn't taste at all like pasta but it's fun to eat and tastes good." Stew didn't really love it though...maybe because this is pretty much all we had for dinner, with some leftover meat...and then Stew had a pb&j. ;)
So don't eat ONLY this, but this would be a good veggie side to an Italian meal, like chicken parmesan or something. These noodles weren't my idea, I got the idea from some blogs I follow, then followed a simple recipe on eHow.

Zucchini (about one regular sized zucchini per person)
Green onions (I cut some really long and thin and added them in for flavor, but I didn't love the texture of them)
Olive oil
Garlic (to your taste)
Salt & pepper, to taste
Tomatoes or tomato sauce, if desired
Grated parmesan cheese, if desired

Wash the zucchini (obviously). With a vegetable peeler, grate zucchini length-wise, rotating it to keep it round (so you get thinner noodles). Use as much of the zucchini as possible (the seedy center is a little hard to grate so I left it out). Heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and let it cook until it's a little brown and soft. Add zucchini to the pan and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until thinner slices look translucent.
Add salt and pepper, tomatoes or tomato sauce to taste (not too much to overpower the zucchini). Top with cheese.

Now how easy was that?!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Easy Stir and Roll Pie Crust

This flaky pie crust is a snap to make, and it tastes SO good! And since it uses oil instead of butter, it's a *tad* healthier!

Stir and Roll Pie Crust

* Measurements for a 2-crust pie are first (I use that the most—even if I'm just making a one-crust pie because it seems like there's not enough dough in the one-crust pie to cover the whole pie pan! I think they're making pie pans bigger these days!), and measurements for a 1-crust pie are in brackets.
2 cups flour  [1 cup flour]
1 1/2 tsp salt  [3/4 tsp salt]
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp oil  [4 1/2 Tbsp oil]
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp milk  [2 1/2 Tbsp milk]

Mix flour and salt together with a fork. Measure milk and oil together, but DON'T stir. Pour liquid all at once over flour mixture. Stir GENTLY with a fork until mixed. Don't overmix. Roll out between 2 sheets of waxed paper. Invert into pie plate.
For single-crust pie: prick bottom and sides with fork several times and bake for 8–12 minutes at 375º, until lightly browned.

*Note: I always make a 2-crust pie, because my pie pan is bigger and the 1-crust just isn't enough. With the leftover pie dough, I roll it out, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on it, and bake it on a cookie sheet for about 10 minutes, until it's lightly browned. Then I cut it into strips. It's a fun snack while you're waiting for your pie!

Banana Cream Pie

I LOVE my mom's banana cream pie. I really think it's the best I've tried, but maybe I'm just biased. ;) What's interesting is this banana cream pie has a vanilla pudding base, not banana—but I think that's what makes it so good, because there's no fake banana flavor! Another great thing? You probably already have all the ingredients! And do you know what I love? It's a pretty healthy dessert, because my mom uses skim milk every time and it turns out great! Here's the recipe for everyone to enjoy!

Banana Cream Pie

Pie crust (see next post)

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups milk (can use fat free!)
5 egg yolks
2–3 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp vanilla
1–2 bananas (if you prefer more or less)

Whisk together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a heavy saucepan (before turning heat on). Gradually whisk in milk. Crack egg yolks into separate bowl (in case of shells, and you can pick the thick white part attached to the yolk out if you don't like those), then vigorously whisk into milk mixture until no streaks appear.
Stirring constantly, bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and whisk until smooth. Return to heat, whisking occasionally, and bring to a simmer and cook for one minute or until thickened (it usually takes longer than one minute until it gets thick, and don't skip this, otherwise the pie won't set).
Remove from heat and whisk in butter and vanilla.
Cool slightly with waxed paper or plastic wrap over the surface to prevent a skin from forming.
Layer pudding and bananas over baked pie crust, starting with bananas (and make sure all bananas are covered with pudding so they don't brown). Chill thoroughly (at least 2–3 hours). Serve with whipped cream.

My mom makes this pie all the time (it's so easy!) and it's a favorite at our house—hope it becomes one of yours!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rating: The Savory Palate

We got an email a couple weeks ago from Britnee at Intrepid Agency (a marketing and communications company), who said we might be interested in The Savory Palate. The Savory Palate is a culinary student-run restaurant at the Art Institute of Salt Lake City in Draper, Utah. During the quarters, they are open Tuesday and Wednesday for lunch, by reservation only. They serve a high-end three-course meal for only $12.95.
Of course we were interested! After emailing her back and forth, she offered to treat us to lunch at Savory Palate! Needless to say, we were very excited and planned to go the earliest we could.

The restaurant is located in the Art Institute’s campus, on the second floor. It is a pretty small dining area, with about ten tables.

There is a big glass window into the kitchen, where you can watch the students prepare your meal (Hell’s Kitchen-style, only without Gordon Ramsey yelling).

I got to peek inside the kitchen!

The restaurant is decorated with red and black, to match the Art Institute's colors. The tables look kind of wedding-receptionish, with the mirror under the vase (not necessarily a bad thing).

On to the food! The students create the menu, and there are 3 choices of appetizer and dessert, and two options of entree.

First we were each brought a piece of a multigrain baguette, with a chive butter.

The appetizers we got were the raspberry fruit dip and a salad.

Both were good, and really fresh ingredients (they use local ingredients and take advantage of seasonal farmer’s market foods). Nothing was really unique or blew us away about the appetizers, but they were good and we were satisfied.

Next came the main course. We got both dishes; Stew got scallops with pasta, and I got a lemon chicken with potatoes and carrots.

Scallops are a classic “culinary school food,” and the student that cooked our scallops had it down—they were cooked perfectly and Stew really enjoyed them. There was an assortment of pasta in the dish, including squid ink fettuccine, which was a fun addition. I personally think the dish would have been more impressive if there was only squid ink pasta and not a mix.

The lemon chicken dish really surpassed everything, though. The chicken had been marinated in lemon juice and herbs, then breaded in flour, spices and red onions. The flavor was so bright and fresh; the chicken cooked perfectly and was tender and juicy. It was absolutely outstanding and we enjoyed every bite! The yukon gold potatoes and carrots served with the dish were also phenomenal and perfectly cooked.

For dessert we enjoyed the cherry cheesecake and the chocolate roulade.

The chocolate roulade was a not-too-rich chocolate dessert, and the perfect portion—just enough to satisfy. I loved the presentation on this dish, with the brush of chocolate and sprinkle of sugar (even though it may have been a little "cliche" culinary school).

The cheesecake was dense and velvety smooth—perfect texture, with a substantial graham cracker crust. Even the cherry topping was delicious (neither of us really love maraschino cherries, but we liked them on the cheesecake).

At the end of the meal, we were given three chocolates the chocolate class had made. We ate these as we filled out our comment card, but they were probably the worst part of the “meal.” They looked good, but the chocolate was pretty waxy.

Other than that though, it was a great meal and we left satisfied but not stuffed, and still talking about the great chicken. I’m going to have to try to recreate that recipe...

We’ve read reviews about The Savory Palate that talk about the cliche “culinary school” presentation. And while this may be true, we were still impressed with how nice the dishes looked.

Here’s our official “rating”:

It’s not every day that we eat food this good. The Savory Palate is right up there with other really nice restaurants we’ve been to (bonus for the price!), and we’d happily dine there again!

After our meal, we got to talk to an instructor chef about the program and the restaurant. He goes to farmer's markets often to get the food for the restaurant class. Talking with him, we could tell the culinary program at the Art Institute of SLC is top-notch!

Thank you Britnee of Intrepid for treating us to lunch and introducing us to The Savory Palate! And thanks everyone at the Art Institute of SLC for the great lunch! Keep doing what you’re doing!