Wednesday, December 17, 2014

English Muffin Bread

Some days are just made for staying home and baking bread.  Today has been one of those days for me.

It's been cold, dark, and rainy outside ever since I was awakened by a screaming toddler before the crack of dawn.  As it turns out, the cold that seems to be going around lately has officially arrived at our house.  My littlest girl is fighting a fever but, thankfully, is able to rest.  Add to that the older boy is not having a much better day.  He left a bag with clothes and Christmas presents on the Metro and will likely not see it again, had to walk through pouring rain... on and on... you get the idea; he's having an anything-that-can-go-wrong-will kind of day.

So, with nothing I could do but comfort these two, I decided to make English muffin bread.  There's probably some deep psychological root meaning behind it like the memory of my stepmom baking homemade bread and that yeasty aroma in the air.  Maybe it comforted me in some way?  I'm sure it did; it must have....maybe I'm overanalyzing.

But, about this bread... it's perfect for toast. That's it!  When there is freezing rain coming down outside and I am homebound with sick and miserable children, I just want to sit and eat toast.  That's what I did, too, and it was everything I hoped it could be.  

2 3/4c warm water
1 TBSP + 1 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast
1 TBSP salt
1 TBSP + 1 1/2 tsp. white sugar
5 3/4c all-purpose or bread flour
1 TBSP butter, melted (optional)

1.  In a large mixing bowl, proof the yeast by pouring in 1 cup of the warm water and the yeast.  Allow to stand for a few minutes while the yeast gets bubbly and foamy looking.

2.  Stir in the remaining water, salt, and sugar.  

3.  Add flour 1 cup at a time, mixing after each addition.

4.  Cover bowl and place in a cool, dark place.  Allow dough to double in size.  I let mine sit for about an hour.

5.  Punch down the dough and divide equally into two prepared 8x4 loaf pans.  Cover again and allow to rise again, doubling in size.  I allowed another hour for this.  Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°

6.  Uncover and place in preheated oven.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden.  If desired, brush tops with melted butter 5 minutes prior to finish.

7.  Remove from oven and turn loaves out onto a wire rack.  Allow to cool completely before slicing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Deep Dark Chocolate Brownies with Pomegranate and Sea Salt

I was recently gifted two fantastic ingredients - black onyx cocoa powder and vanilla bean paste.  Both of which I had never tried before so had no idea what I was missing out on.  The first thing you should know is, I will never buy plain old vanilla extract again.  The vanilla bean paste has spoiled me forever on that.  Secondly, people are not joking when they say black onyx cocoa absolutely needs to be blended into regular cocoa.  It's that rich.

The pomegranate seeds not only add a nice pop of color but also a lighter contrast in flavors to the intensity of the dark chocolate.  And just a little sprinkling of sea salt at the end brings it all together.

1/2c butter, melted
1 1/4c white sugar
1/2c cocoa powder
1/4c + 2 TBSP black onyx cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla bean paste
2 eggs
1/3c all-purpose flour
1 pomegranate, seeded

1.  Preheat oven to 350°

2.  In a large mixing bowl, combine butter, sugar, both cocoa powders, salt, and vanilla paste.

3.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after adding each.

4.  Gradually stir in the flour just until blended.

5.  Pour batter into a prepared 8x8 baking dish (batter will be thick!) and top with 1/2c of the pomegranate seeds.  Bake 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

6.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle with additional salt and pomegranate seeds.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Wild Rice and Garbanzo Bean Soup

It's been wonderfully dreary and rainy here lately.  Normally, this alone is enough to get me craving a hot bowl of soup but, add in the fact that I'm fighting a stubborn cold that just won't go away, and it's pretty much guaranteed there's going to be some sort of comfort food happening here and this was exactly what I needed.

Cooking this soup, I was tempted to add a little heavy cream, mostly out of habit, but after tasting it I realized it was completely unnecessary.  The turmeric really gives a nice Indian flavor and if you're inclined to add some some sort of carb to the meal, I would suggest a garlicky naan bread.

2c herbed wild rice blend, cooked
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP butter
1/4c yellow onion, chopped
1c carrots, diced
1 large stalk celery, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
1/8 tsp. dried turmeric
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
6c vegetable broth
2 - 15oz. cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1.  In a medium size pot, heat olive oil and butter over Medium High heat.  Add the onions, carrots, and celery.  Cook and stir 4-5 minutes, until softened.

2.  Stir in the garlic, thyme, turmeric, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Cook and stir an additional 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add the vegetable broth and garbanzo beans.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to Low, cover, and allow to simmer 20-30 minutes.

4.  Remove cover and stir in the cooked rice.  Allow to simmer another 5-10 minutes, or until rice is heated through.  Serve warm.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Our New Favorite Pumpkin Pie

My pumpkin pies have definitely evolved over the years.... I followed the recipe on the Libby's can for awhile and that was okay.  Then came a few years of folding in meringue and topping with pecans, which we all agreed was superior to the pies from the back-of-the-can days.  But then, this happened.  

I took a chance and tried out a new version of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving day and the verdict was unanimous... this is THE pumpkin pie we will be having every year for the foreseeable future.

I was feeling fancy and decided to roast a sugar pumpkin rather than using canned but really, canned would work just as well here.

2c cooked pumpkin, pureed
2 eggs, beaten
1/2c heavy cream
1/2c sour cream
1c raw brown sugar
1 TBSP all-purpose flour
1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 - unbaked, deep-dish pie crust

1.  Preheat oven to 425°  Place pie crust on a baking sheet.

2.  In a large mixing bowl, add all filling ingredients.

3.  Mix on medium speed until well blended and smooth.

4.  Pour filing into the pie crust.

5.  Bake approximately 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. 

6.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight; long enough for it to chill throughout.  Serve cool or room temperature.

Aren't these cutouts adorable?!
Since I used a store bought crust, I just rolled out the extra crust in the package, stamped them out with my little cutter, and placed them right over the other crust.  ;)

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Holiday Cranberry Sauce

I love cranberry sauce so much I could almost just sit and eat it all by itself.  The only time I make it though is Thanksgiving.  Maybe that's what makes it so special.  I like to prepare the sauce two days ahead of the big feast because 1) one less thing to do on Thanksgiving morning and 2) I'm convinced something magical happens with the flavors overnight.

If you're one of those people who buys the cranberry sauce in a can, stop that right now!  Once you've made the sauce with fresh cranberries, you'll never want to go back.  This is how I've made our Thanksgiving cranberry sauce for the last several years.

12oz. fresh cranberries
1c white sugar
3/4c orange juice
1/4c orange-based liqueur (I like Grand Marnier)

Note:  If you prefer to skip the liqueur, increase orange juice to 1c.

1.  In a medium size saucepan, over medium heat, combine the sugar, orange juice, and liqueur    Stir until sugar is dissolved.

2.  Add the cranberries.  Cook and stir until the cranberries begin to pop open.  (Mine took about 10 min.)  

3.  Remove from heat and allow to cool down a bit.

4.  Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and refrigerate at least overnight. (I like to make it 2 days in advance.)  Sauce will thicken as it cools.

Monday, November 24, 2014

As Thanksgiving Week Begins...

It's here!  Thanksgiving Week - the official buildup to the Super Bowl of all foodie holidays is upon us!  Are you excited or panicked?  Honestly, I'm a little bit of both at the moment.  Just yesterday, after wrestling the toddler down for nap, I finally got about 30 minutes of down time during which I was able to sketch out a rough plan for the big feast.

Have you seen all the recent posts about people doing "practice" Thanksgiving dinners?  Is this really a thing now?  Please tell me it's not because if it is, well, it's still not happening at my house.  Seriously, who has time for that?!

And all the planning guides that tell you to begin two weeks in advance?  Also not happening here.  Nope; everything will officially begin today (or tomorrow) with the big grocery shopping trip and we'll go from there.

But here's what I really want to know... Are you trying any new dishes this Thanksgiving?  I'll be keeping some things the same, like the cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie, but everything else from the sweet potatoes to the green beans, even the appetizers will be all new this year.

What can I say?  I'm feeling adventurous.  I'll let you know how it goes.  :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Red Beans and Quinoa

Southern-style comfort food that just happens to also be high in protein, gluten-free and vegan!  Served alongside Beer Braised Collard Greens, here, and a slice of cornbread, you've got a hearty, delicious meal:

1 TBSP olive oil
2 TBSP yellow onion, chopped
1/3c green pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 (15-oz.) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2c vegetable broth
1c quinoa, rinsed
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning, or to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over Medium heat.

2.  Add the onion, green pepper, and celery.  Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until vegetables have softened a bit.  Add the garlic and continue cooking another 1-2 minutes.

3.  Add the thyme, kidney beans, and vegetable broth.  Increase heat and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to Low, cover, and allow to simmer 10 minutes.

4.  Stir in the quinoa and season to taste.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Apple and Blue Cheese Crostini

I've been kicking around the idea of serving these for Thanksgiving and decided to do a test run last night.  What I love is the simplicity of the flavors and also the way you could put everything together in advance or just spread out the ingredients and let everyone build their own. Saves you a step and, really, people like build-your-own food - it's fun!

I've always loved apple and Blue cheese together but what was new to me was the addition of honey. This is what totally puts this appetizer over the top.  It's just that little kiss of sweetness against the the tanginess of the cheese.  So, what I'm saying is, if you skip the honey, it's still good but not as good as what the rest of us are eating.

If you want to get fancy, your can make your own bread (recipe here) or you can do like I did this time and grab a fresh baguette from the bakery.

1 - sweet red apple (I used a honey crisp), sliced thin
4 oz. medium-soft Blue cheese, room temperature
1 TBSP fresh rosemary

1.  Preheat oven to 350°

2.  Slice baguette into 1" slices and arrange on a baking sheet.  Toast in the oven 1-2 minutes.

3.  Layer each baguette slice with a "schmear" of cheese, a sprinkle of rosemary, and a light drizzle of honey.

Serve with a crisp white wine - perfect!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms

Because I had three full bags of baby spinach in the fridge that I needed to use or lose, spinach was the theme of last night's dinner.  We had a delicious spinach and tortellini soup, more on that another day, and these little mushroom bites.  They were such an easy and elegant addition to the meal and, since they're made with cottage cheese, not super heavy in calories like the cream cheese-based stuffed mushrooms I usually go for.

1 TBSP olive oil
12 baby bella mushrooms
12 mushroom stems, chopped
2 TBSP yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2c baby spinach leaves
1/2c cottage cheese
1 egg
1/8 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne powder
1 TBSP fresh basil, chopped
2 TBSP Parmesan cheese, grated

1.  Preheat oven to 350°

2.  In a large skillet, over medium heat, heat olive oil.

3.  Add onion and mushroom stems.  Saute 1-2 minutes.

4.  Add spinach and allow it to cook down; 1-2 minutes.

5.  Add garlic and continue sautéing another minute.  Remove from heat and set aside.

6.  To a food processor or blender, add the cottage cheese, egg, nutmeg, black pepper, and cayenne.  Pulse a few times to combine mixture but still retain some texture.

7.  Add spinach mixture and basil.  Pulse another 3-4 times; just enough to blend.

8.  Spoon everything into the mushroom caps.  Bake 25-30 minutes.

9.  During the last 5 minutes of baking, top each mushroom with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

Tip: Make the filling ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds

Have you carved your pumpkins yet?  If not, get to it; it's Halloween week!   If you're ahead of the game, I hope you didn't throw out the built-in snack.

This is the one and only time of year we eat pumpkin seeds so it's important to roast them with the perfect blend of sweet and salty.  Confession: I have never gotten this quite right, until now.  I'm convinced the secret ingredient is the brown sugar.

Mr. agreed these are the best yet and seriously addictive!
2c pumpkin seeds
3 TBSP vegan butter, melted
3 TBSP brown sugar
3/4 tsp. sea salt + a little extra 
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cumin

1.  Clean the seeds by swishing them around with water in a large bowl.  Set aside to dry.

2.  Once seeds are dry, preheat oven to 250°

3.  Add seeds back to the bowl and add melted butter, brown sugar, sea salt, chili powder, and cumin; toss to coat.

4.  Pour seeds evenly into a prepared 11x13 baking dish.  Bake 90 minutes, stirring every 30 minutes.

5.  Remove from oven and season with additional salt, to taste.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Oven~Baked Refried Bean Dip

It's snack time!  Grab a bag of chips and dig in!

4 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2c plain yogurt
1 (16oz.) can refried beans
3 TBSP taco seasoning
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper sauce
2 TBSP green onions, chopped + a little extra for garnish
1c Cheddar cheese, shredded and divided

1.  Preheat oven to 350*

2.  In a medium size bowl, stir all ingredients together, reserving 1/2c cheese and the extra green onions.

3.  Add to prepared baking dish.  I used two smaller dishes but the recipe works just as well if you put it all in an 8x8.

4.  Top with the remaining cheese.

5.  Bake, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Vegan Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Fall is here!  Time for sweaters & boots, hot apple cider, and comfort food at it's best.  I've been making this family favorite every fall for several years now and it is always a big hit.  The recipe has evolved quite a bit from the first time I made this soup and I think it's better than ever now.

Hope you enjoy these classic flavors as much as we do!

1 pkg. Beyond Meat chicken strips
1 TBSP olive oil
salt, pepper, & garlic powder, to taste

6c vegetarian chicken broth
1 - 4oz. pkg. wild rice mix, with seasoning packet
3/4c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2c vegan butter
1/4c yellow onion, diced
1/2c carrots, diced
1/2c celery, chopped
1/2c white wine, optional
2c soy creamer

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add chicken strips and cook until heated through, seasoning with salt, pepper, and garlic powder, to taste.  Remove to a cutting board and shred.

In a large pot over medium high heat, bring the broth to a boil.  Add rice and seasoning packet included.  Cover and remove from heat.

In a small bowl, combine flour, salt and pepper.  Set aside.

In a medium-large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter.  Add onions, carrots, and celery, sautéing until slightly tender.  Stir in garlic and cook another minute, until fragrant.

Add white wine, if desired, and reduce heat to low.  

Gradually whisk in the flour mixture.

Pour in the creamer, a little at a time, whisking to maintain a smooth consistency.  Allow to simmer approximately 5 minutes to thicken, stirring occasionally.

Stir creamy mixture into the large pot with broth and rice.  Bring heat to medium and allow soup to heat through; 15-20 min.

 Served with biscuits for dipping - yum!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Cinnamon Spice Applesauce (Slow Cooked and Sugar-Free)

Are you ready for the easiest applesauce you've ever made?  Break out the crock pot and let's get to it!

Let me just first say, even if you've been making applesauce with white or brown sugar forever, I promise, you absolutely will not miss it in this applesauce.  The apples have so much natural sweetness anyway.  I used Galas but don't see why any variety of apple wouldn't work here.

So, just use whatever you've got on hand and adjust spices to your personal preference.  Serve it hot; serve it cold - doesn't matter.  This recipe is super flexible!  Bonus: Your entire house will smell amazing!

Recipe can be scaled for whatever amount of apples you want to use without changing the cooking time.  I went with a small 1 lb. batch and it yielded approximately 1 1/2c.

1 lb, apples, peeled, cored, and sliced thin
1/3 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1.  Layer apple slices in the slow cooker.

2.  Sprinkle with spices.

3.  Set temperature on High and leave it alone for about 4 hours, checking progress periodically.

4.  Stir everything together and mash to desired consistency.  I like a chunkier applesauce so all it took was just a few times around in the pot with a spoon and it was ready.

Monday, October 6, 2014

White Wine Alfredo Sauce

My husband could probably eat fettuccine Alfredo every day of his life and I've experimented with various combinations over the years.  Most were tasty, some were so-so, but this one has emerged as the clear favorite:

4 TBSP butter
4 TBSP all-purpose flour
1c. heavy cream
1c. chicken flavored broth (Better Than Boullion makes a great veg version)
1c. Mozzarella cheese, shredded
1/2c. Parmesan and Romano cheese, shredded
3 TBSP Italian flat-leaf parsley, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/4c. white wine 
salt and pepper, to taste

1.  In a medium-size sauce pan, melt butter over low heat.

2.  Add flour.  Cook and stir with a whisk until well blended. (2-3 min.)

3.  Add cream and broth.  Stir to blend.

4.  Add remaining ingredients and continue stirring over low heat until cheeses are melted and sauce is a smooth consistency.

*If the sauce starts to get too thick, just thin it back out with a splash of wine or broth.

5.  Toss with pasta and serve warm.

Some people swear by Chardonnay for Alfredo sauces but I used a Sauvignon Blanc for this one 
and thought it was fabulous - Cheers!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Green Chile and Pepper Jack Egg Bake

This is officially my new favorite egg dish!

I had big plans to make it last weekend but... I don't know, something happened and it just didn't work out.  You know how these things go.  Days went by and I finally remembered I had bought the cheeses specifically for this so I should probably get on with making it.

And that is how we came to have "breakfast for dinner".  In order to make the meal not so breakfast-y  though I did throw together a side of black beans (butter, onion, garlic, cilantro - easy) and that rounded out the meal nicely.

Here's the super simple and oh, so yummy recipe:

6 eggs, beaten
1/2c pepper Jack cheese, shredded
1c cottage cheese
1/4c all-purpose flour
1/4c green chiles, chopped

1.  Preheat oven to 350°.

2.  In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, pepper Jack cheese, cottage cheese, and flour.

3.  Fold in the green chiles.

4.  Pour everything into a prepared 8x8 baking dish.

5.  Bake 1 hour, or until eggs are set.  Serve warm.

P.S.  The leftovers were great the next day.  
I spooned some into flour tortillas and devoured them for lunch!


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