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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Zucchini Banana Bread

I had a zucchini that had been taking up space in my fridge for far too long, so I made up my mind to make some zucchini bread. Then my in-laws came by and brought me a huge bag of bruised bananas that they found on clearance at the grocery store. So then of course I was craving banana bread. Unable to choose between the zucchini and the banana, I opted to marry the two and create zucchini banana bread!

This bread is supremely moist and low-fat, replacing applesauce for oil. Because I didn't have unsweetened applesauce, I opted to drastically reduce the amount of sugar (and used brown rather than granulated). The addition of whole-wheat flour and wheat germ made this an altogether healthy quick bread. In spite of its healthiness, it was still irresistible and I found myself grabbing bites here and there all night long after it came out of the oven. I love zucchini bread and I love banana bread, and now I can say I also love zucchini banana bread!

Zucchini Banana Bread
significantly adapted from www.recipesource.com
yields 2 loaves

-2 eggs
-1 cup applesauce
-2 tsp vanilla extract
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-2 cups grated zucchini (1 large zucchini)
-2 mashed ripe bananas
-1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
-1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
-2 tbsp wheat germ
-1 tsp baking powder
-3/4 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp cinnamon
-3/4 tsp salt

1. Beat eggs, applesauce, vanilla, brown sugar, zucchini, and bananas in a large mixing bowl.
2. Add the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, mixing until combined.
3. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans.
4. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

10 Minute Tomato Soup

This tomato soup literally takes only ten minutes to throw together...perfect for a busy weeknight (or a lazy Saturday when cooking is the last thing you want to do!). The recipe, found on Foodie with Family, is originally called five minute tomato soup, but I thought it took closer to ten minutes to get it hot enough, hence the name change. This is about as simple as heating a can of tomato soup, but with a fresher taste. I think it goes without saying that this soup is the perfect mate for grilled cheese sandwiches!

On another note, in case you haven't noticed, I've officially begun blogging from my new domain! mclaurysweets.blogspot.com will still take you to my site, but from here on out, I'll be blogging from www.thesweetslife.com. I'm so excited to have it up and running and hope this web address will be easier to remember!

10 Minute Tomato Soup

-1 (48 oz) can tomato puree (I used crushed tomatoes)
-3 3/4 cups plus 1/4 fresh water, divided
-2 tbsp cornstarch
-1 tsp kosher salt
-3/4 tsp granulated garlic
-1/2 tsp celery salt (I used celery seed)
-a pinch of Italian seasonings
-1 cup half and half (I accidentally used 1 1/2 cups, but it just made it a little creamier)

1. Stir together the tomato puree, 3 3/4 cups water, salt, garlic, celery salt, and italian seasonings in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat.
2. Bring to a simmer, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.
3. When the soup is simmering, use a fork to combine the cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water in a small bowl.
4. While stirring the soup vigorously, pour the cornstarch and water mixture into the pan. Return to a simmer and continue cooking until thickened.
5. When thickened, remove from heat and stir in half and half. Serve immediately (we sprinkled with parmesan) or refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to a week. (We ate half one night, and reheated the rest a few nights later and it tasted great both times)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Butternut Squash Lasagna

****UPDATE YOUR GOOGLE READERS...I'm now blogging from my own domain...www.thesweetslife.com!!

Here are the important things to know about this recipe:

1. It's a little bit tedious to make.
I spent my Saturday morning making this lasagna, something I am very grateful I did. Had I tried to make it after a long day at work, I may have said forget it and made pb & j.

2. It's good for you.
It's from Cooking Light and healthy ingredients include spinach, butternut squash, and tomatoes!

3. It makes TWO meals.
I'm all about this! I felt pretty accomplished on Saturday, knowing my time in the kitchen would lead to at least 2, probably more with leftovers, meals for us.

4. It is delicious.
I'm not a huge lasagna fan typically, though I've been wanting to make a butternut squash pasta dish and had started making up my own in my head. My mom recommended this recipe though and I decided to give it a go. My tastebuds were so glad--good call mom! (and thanks Lindsay for sharing this with us :))

Butternut Squash Lasagna

-3 cups chopped onion
-10 cups fresh spinach
-3/4 cup shredded sharp provolone cheese (our grocery store didn't have this, so I bought an Italian blend)
-1/2 cup chopped fresh-flat leaf parsley
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-2 large eggs
-1 (15 oz.) carton part-skim ricotta cheese
-1 (15 oz.) carton fat-free ricotta cheese (our grocery store didn't have fat-free, so I got another part-skim)
-3 cups diced, peeled butternut squash
-6 cups Smoky Marinara sauce (recipe below)
-12 oven-read lasagna noodles
-1 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese (I definitely used less than this, just sprinkled it on)

Smoky Marinara Sauce
-1 tbsp olive oil
-3 garlic cloves, minced
-1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
-2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
-2 tbsp chopped fresh or 2 tsp dried oregano
-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
-1/8 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp pepper
-1 (28 oz.) can crushed fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic, basil, parsley, and oregano; saute for 1 minute, stirring frequently.
2. Stir in vinegar and remaining ingredients. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Lasagna Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 375F (if cooking immediately).
2. Heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion & saute for 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach and saute for 1 1/2 minutes or until spinach wilts.
3. Combine provolone, parsley, salt, pepper, eggs, and ricotta cheeses in a large bowl.
4. Place squash in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and cook on high 5 minutes or until tender. (took me 8 minutes)
5. Coat the bottom and sides of 2 (8-in square) baking dishes with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup Smoky Marinara in the bottom of one prepared dish. Arrange 2 noodles over sauce and spread 1 cup cheese mixture over noodles. Arrange 1 1/2 cups squash over cheese mixture; spread 3/4 cup sauce over squash.
6. Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup cheese mixture over the noodles. Arrange 1 1/2 cups onion mixture over cheese mixture; spread 3/4 cup sauce over spinach mixture.
7. Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup Smoky Marinara evenly over noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan. Repeat procedure with remaining ingredients in remaining pan. Cover each pan with foil.
8. Bake at 375F for 30 min. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.

To freeze unbaked lasagna:
-Follow directions through Step 7. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing to remove as much air as possible. Wrap with heavy-duty foil. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.

To prepare frozen unbaked lasagna:
-Thaw completely in fridge (about 24 hrs). Preheat oven to 375F. Remove foil; reserve foil. Remove plastic wrap; discard wrap. Cover lasagna with reserved foil; bake at 375F for 1 hr. Uncover and bake an additional 30 min or until bubbly.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Carrot Cake Pancakes

****UPDATE YOUR GOOGLE READERS...I'm now blogging from my own domain...www.thesweetslife.com!!

Dessert for breakfast? I'm not complaining! And actually, these have some healthy elements...carrots, whole wheat flour,...I guess the healthiness ends there when you top them with cream cheese & maple syrup :) We enjoyed these for Sunday brunch last weekend, amongst lots of chatter and story-telling with two of my truest friends. Everyone was in agreement that they would've been even better with the addition of some chopped nuts. I had intended to include those, but it completely slipped my mind! Next time, I'll add nuts and perhaps some crushed pineapple to even more closely resemble carrot cake.

I found this recipe on the blog Closet Cooking, which has a lot of creative recipes and beautiful photography. The original recipe is listed below, but I recommend doubling if you're serving more than 3 people. Also, Kevin's adaptation had more of a thick cream cheese spread, whereas we added a lot more syrup to make more of a syrupy cream cheese topping. I'm guessing either way is equally delicious-the cream cheese topping is a must!

Carrot Cake Pancakes
as seen on Closet Cooking

-1/2 cup whole wheat flour
-1/2 cup all purpose flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/4 tsp ginger
-1/8 tsp nutmeg
-1 cup milk (or buttermilk)
-1 egg
-1/4 cup brown sugar
-1 cup carrot (grated)
-4 oz. cream cheese (room temperature)
-3 tablespoons maple syrup
-powdered sugar to taste (I omitted this, which may explain why my cream cheese mixture was so thin?)

1. Mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in a large bowl.
2. Mix the milk, egg, sugar, and carrot in another bowl. (I microwaved the grated carrot for a minute to soften)
3. Mix the wet and dry ingredients. Do not overmix.
4. Grease and heat a skillet. Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan at a time, flipping when the surface bubbles and the bottom is golden brown (2-3 minutes).
5. Cook the other side until the bottom is golden brown.
6. Mix the cream cheese and maple syrup, adding powdered sugar if desired to sweeten.
7. Top pancakes with cream cheese mixture.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Puppy Chow

****UPDATE YOUR GOOGLE READERS...I'm now blogging from my own domain...www.thesweetslife.com!!

This is one of my all-time favorite things to pig out on. There's really no other way to put it. Friends have given me puppy chow for birthdays, Secret Santa gifts, you name it. It's no secret that I adore this simple combination, fondly known as puppy chow. I've had a craving lately, and I finally broke down and made it to bring to our friends' house last Friday night, in the hopes that they'd all eat a lot and keep my portion in check ;)

I use different measurements than the typical puppy chow recipe you'll find online, mostly because those recipes don't use the full box of cereal (who's going to eat a couple bowls of boring leftover rice chex? No one in this household!) and I like my cereal well-coated!!

Puppy Chow

-1 box rice chex cereal
-1 bag Ghirardelli chocolate chips (can use any chocolate chips, but I opted for the good stuff!)
-1 cup creamy peanut butter
-1/4 cup butter
-2 tsp vanilla
-2-4 cups powdered sugar

1. In a large saucepan over medium low heat, melt the butter, chocolate chips, and peanut butter, stirring frequently until smooth. Remove from heat and add vanilla.
2. Pour approximately 3/4 the box of cereal into a large bowl. Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal and mix well with a large spoon, until cereal is well-coated. Pour the rest of the cereal into the bowl, continuing to stir until the new cereal is also coated. (I find that if you try to do the whole box at once, it becomes too difficult to evenly coat)
3. Pour the chocolate covered cereal into a paper bag (I recommend double-bagging!). Pour in 2 cups of powdered sugar. Fold bag over to close and shake well, coating cereal with the sugar. Continue adding small amounts of powdered sugar until it coated to your liking.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mexican Pot Pie

Note--This recipe has been updated with new photos here!

As you've heard me mention in the last couple of weeks, my sister has been living with us for the time being while she begins her career as a nurse in St. Louis and finds a place to live. One of the upsides of nursing is their abnormal schedules, which allow for days off during the week. This is of particular advantage to me, because it means having a live-in cook on some days :) Dinner always tastes better when someone else prepares it!

Don't get me wrong, I'm really loving Julia living here, and not just for her cooking capabilities. We haven't lived together in years, since we both lived at home, and it's been so fun to have her around. I'm enjoying our "family runs" (me more than her or Ryan I'm sure), our weekly tradition of laughing at the ridiculousness of the Bachelor, and all the benefits of having a live-in best friend (besides Ryan of course).

To get back on topic...it was Julia who made this meal for us last week. I've made it before and remembered really liking it, and my memories were confirmed! This combines Mexican flavors with a cornbread topping that makes for a fantastic one-dish meal. I adopted this recipe from Julie's Foodie, making a few ingredient swaps. Our version is listed below.

Mexican Pot Pie

-1 3/4 cups chopped onion
-3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
-1 lb. ground turkey
-1/2 cup bottled salsa
-1 tbsp hot sauce
-1 can black beans
-1 can diced tomatoes with green chilies
-3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, divided
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
-2 tbsp sugar
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
-2/3 cup skim milk
-1 1/2 tbsp butter, melted
-1 large egg, lightly beaten

1. Preheat oven to 400F.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and turkey. Cook 5 minutes or until meat is browned, stirring to crumble.
3. Stir in salsa, hot sauce, beans, and tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 cup cilantro.
4. Spoon mixture into a 3-qt casserole dish.
5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, and baking powder. Add remaining cilantro, milk, butter, and egg. Stir until blended. Spoon over the turkey mixture, spreading evenly.
6. Bake for 35 minutes or until cornbread is golden.

This post is linked to Eat at Home.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Three-Bean Salad

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This is another dish I made for the luncheon, and I ended up liking this much more than I anticipated! While I don't think the dressing was flavorful enough (which could easily be remedied by adding more red wine vinegar), the salad itself was very tasty. It was also incredibly filling, thanks to the chickpeas and kidney beans! However, it wasn't one of those heavy, sit in your stomach all day salads...it was just filling enough to keep your tummy satisfied for several hours (and your hand out of the cookies ;))

The salad was a breeze to throw together. I made it a day ahead of time and doubled the recipe (original recipe below), which made a TON...not that I'm complaining! I enjoyed the leftovers for days. The recipe is from my sister's cookbook get cooking by mollie katzen, which has tons of other amazing sounding recipes that I'm eager to try!

Three-Bean Salad
from get cooking (buy here)

-one 15 oz. can chickpeas
-one 15 oz. can red kidney beans
-one 15 oz. can green beans
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/4 cup red wine vinegar (may want to increase!)
-1 tsp sugar
-1 tsp yellow mustard
-3/4 tsp salt
-1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
-1 stalk celery, diced
-half a small red bell pepper, minced (I used orange)
-3/4 cup minced red onion

1. Pour the beans into a colander in the sink. Rinse and allow to drain.
2. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
3. Add the drained beans, celery, bell pepper, and onion to the dressing. Toss well to mix. Cover the bowl tightly and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator. Stir (or shake) occasionally to marinate evenly. Serve cold.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Greek Salad Pita Sandwiches

I'm not sure why, but I think pitas are so much more fun to eat than sandwiches on regular bread or rolls. Thus, I'm always up for any recipe that involves pita bread (like when I made these or these!) I made these Greek Salad Pita sandwiches for a luncheon I hosted last weekend and they went over very well! I liked this recipe, because the sandwich filling can be made up to two days ahead of time, which is exactly what I did. The filling is colorful, healthy, and perfect for stuffing into a pita!

I actually made modifications to the original recipe because I was making for lots of people! With the recipe below, you'll get about 15 pita sandwiches, so adjust the amounts for your needs.

Greek Salad Pita Sandwiches
adapted from grouprecipes.com

-6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
-2 tbsp red wine vinegar

-2 containers chopped grape tomatoes
-1 diced seeded peeled cucumber
-1 chopped green bell pepper
-1 cup chopped red onion
-3/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
-1/4 cup chopped cilantro
-feta cheese, to taste (I allowed people to sprinkle their own on)
-8 whole wheat pita breads, halved (16 halves)

1. Make Vinaigrette by whisking olive oil and red vinegar in a small bowl. Season with salt & pepper.
2. Mix tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, red onion, parsley, and cilantro in a large bowl. Pour in dressing and mix well to evenly coat.
3. Stir in feta cheese, unless allowing people to add it themselves.
4. Cover and chill for up to 2 days before serving.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

White Chocolate Toffee Coconut Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips

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Whew, what a mouthful. Can anyone think of a better name for these? I found a similar recipe on Eat at Home, and the cookies were called "Way to a Man's Heart" cookies. I wasn't using these to win any men over, so I didn't feel right using that name :) I followed Tiffany's recipe, but I used half a bag of white chocolate chips and half a bag of chocolate chips instead of all chocolate chips.

These cookies are sinfully delicious! They're chock full of goodies and buttery and soft--what more could you want in a cookie?! My only issue with these was how much they stuck to my cookie sheets! Even after I realized my sticking problem and greased my cookie sheets, they were STILL sticking like crazy. No worries, I had no troubles eating the remnants left behind!

This recipe makes a TON of cookies--probably over 80--so use this recipe when you're feeding cookies to a crowd!

White Chocolate Toffee Coconut Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips aka ???

-1 cup butter, softened
-1 cup white sugar
-1 cup brown sugar
-2 eggs
-2 cups flour
-1 tsp baking soda
-1 tsp baking powder
-1 tsp salt
-2 cups quick oats
-1 cup shredded coconut
-1 bag Heath toffee chips
-2 tsp vanilla
-1 cup white chocolate chips
-1 cup chocolate chips

1. Cream the butter and sugars together in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add this mixture to the wet mixture, beating well.
3. Stir in the oats, coconut, toffee chips, and white/chocolate chips, one ingredient at a time, mixing well after each addition.
4. Drop tablespoons of dough onto greased cookie sheets. Bake at 325F for 13 minutes, or until edges are lightly brown.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Pineapple Orange Pork Chops

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It's hard for me to say anything bad about crockpot recipes, because I love how stinkin' easy they make evenings! I've made pork chops in the crockpot before, so I decided to try it again and mix up the flavoring. I have two complaints with this recipe I concocted:

1. Our crockpot doesn't have a timer, so we have no choice but to leave it on ALL day while at work...these cooked for about 8 hrs on low, and I switched them to warm when we got home. They turned out fine, but were a little overcooked due to being in the crockpot so long.
2. The sauce was a little thin for my liking. Next time I'll stir in some cornstarch near the end of cooking to thicken the sauce and make it easier to spoon over the pork and rice.

Despite these two complaints, this was a good meal. As you can see, we ate it with brown rice & zucchini. It was simple, healthy, and perfect for a Thursday night after work!

Pineapple Orange Pork Chops

-4 boneless pork chops
-1 1/2 cups orange juice
-1 can pineapple rings
-1/4 cup soy sauce
-1/2 tsp ginger

1. Place the 4 pork chops (I put mine in frozen) in a crockpot.
2. Pour in the orange juice, soy sauce, and ginger. Set aside the pineapple rings and pour the juice from the can into the crockpot.
3. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or until pork chops are cooked through. Approximately 30 minutes before eating, add the pineapple rings to the crockpot. (Here's where I'd stir in cornstarch to thicken the sauce).
4. Remove chops and pineapple and serve over rice, or eat plain.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Ohhh popovers, how I love thee! These are typically a once a year treat that we have at our Thanksgiving dinner. However, my mom bought me a popover pan for Christmas and I am determined to get good use out of the gift! Popovers are a breeze to whip together (thanks Ashlyn!!), and you probably already have the ingredients in your kitchen. Don't have a popover pan? You should probably get one--these airy, custardy treats are the perfect addition to a meal. If not, I believe they can still be made in a regular 'ol muffin tin...they just won't "pop" as much!


-2 eggs
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1 cup milk
-1/2 tsp salt

1. Preheat oven to 450F. Grease 6 six oz. custard cups (popover pan)
2. In a medium bowl, beat eggs slightly. Beat in flour, milk, and salt until just smooth (be careful not to overbeat).
3. Fill custard cups 1/2 full.
4. Bake at 450F for 20 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 350F and bake for 20 minutes more. (Don't open the oven while baking! The directions didn't say this, but I remembered my mom telling me this :)) Immediately remove from cups and serve piping hot.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

Over Christmas, I was flipping through my grandma's many cookbooks when I found this recipe in Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. I immediately copied it down and couldn't wait to try it. Making this soup ended up being a group effort. Ryan peeled and chopped the butternut squash the night before (why must such a delicious food be such a pain to prepare?!), and my cousin Ashlyn, who was visiting, chopped the apples and onions while I was at work. I took care of the rest when I got home and our team effort paid off! This is one of my favorite soups that we've had this winter--it was thick and hearty, yet very healthy. The garnishes added so much to this soup! We didn't have any cashews, but they would've been a great addition, along with the scallions, coconut, and banana (pictured below). The soup could be eaten plain, but I highly recommend adding the garnishes--yum!

This was my second time using my immersion blender (the original recipe has you blend the vegetables in a food processor) and I LOVE it. Making soup is so much easier!!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics
*makes approximately 6 servings

-3-4 lbs butternut squash peeled and seeded (I used 3 smallish squash)
-2 yellow onions
-2 McIntosh apples, peeled and cored (I used 3--2 Jonathan and 1 Gala, and left the peel on)
-3 tbsp olive oil
-salt & pepper
-2-4 cups homemade chicken stock (I used store-bought chicken broth)
-1/2 tsp curry powder

-scallions, trimmed and sliced diagonally
-shredded coconut, lightly toasted
-salted cashews, toasted and chopped (I didn't have)
-banana, diced (I used dried banana chips, which was perfect)

1. Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the butternut squash, onions, and apples into 1-inch cubes. Place them on a sheet pan and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 35-45 minutes, until very tender.
2. Heat the chicken broth until simmering. Add the roasted vegetables and use an immersion blender to blend, adding chicken broth slowly until desired consistency is reached (I started with about 2 cups in the pot and slowly added broth while blending.
3. Add the curry pepper, salt, and pepper to taste. Be sure you use enough salt and pepper to bring out the curry flavor.
4. Serve hot with condiments on top of each serving.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chocolate Chip Bailey's Torte

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It's been several days without a dessert post...were you getting worried? ;) I was a little hesitant to make this as the recipe seemed odd. No butter? No flour? But it turned out to be so delicious! The original recipe calls for Kahlua, but I didn't have any, so I substituted irish cream liquor (aka Bailey's). While you could really smell the liquor during baking, it didn't taste super strong when finished. You could probably omit it completely if you wanted, although I did like the flavor it added. The original recipe also contains a Kahlua frosting, but I omitted since I was bringing this to a church function... :) Thankfully, it didn't need any frosting! This tasted like a giant, thick, gooey cookie! Despite the odd ingredient list, it turned out so well (anything with a cup of sugar does!) and people (myself included) had no problem devouring this.

Chocolate Chip Bailey's Torte
adapted from www.cooks.com

-3 large eggs
-1 cup sugar
-2 cup graham cracker crumbs
-1 tsp baking powder
-2 tbsp irish cream liquor
-1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1 cup pecans

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-in springform pan and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs on medium speed and slowly add the sugar, beating until light and fluffy.
3. Add the graham cracker crumbs, the baking powder, and the liquor. Mix very well.
4. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.
5. Spread into the springform pan. Bake for 30 minutes.
6. Cool on a cake rack. Remove sides of pan and cut torte into slices

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thai Turkey Burgers

These are one of my new favorite meals. I still can't get over how good the flavor of these were and I'll definitely be making them again soon. In fact, when we were eating them, I went so far as to proclaim them my favorite turkey burger ever! I had seen several different "peanut turkey burgers" and "thai turkey burgers" recipes, so I kind of combined elements of my favorites to come up with the recipe below. We ate our burgers (on Arnold sandwich thins, the BEST alternative to buns!) with roasted brussel sprouts (another favorite!), but they'd be really good with oven-baked fries, especially if you're going for the burger and fry thing! Don't wait for summer to make these--they're perfect to make on your stovetop!

Thai Turkey Burgers
**makes 6 smallish burgers, make bigger if preferred

-1 lb ground turkey
-1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
-3-4 green onions
-2 large carrots
-2 tbsp lime juice
-2 tbsp soy sauce
-1/2 tsp ginger
-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
-cilantro, chopped (I used LOTS because we love cilantro!)
-approx. 1/2 c oatmeal (use more if necessary, could also substitute bread crumbs)

1. Chop green onions, carrots, and cilantro into tiny pieces (I used my food processor for this).
2. Mix in a large bowl with turkey.
3. Add peanut butter, lime juice, soy sauce, ginger, and cayenne pepper.
4. Stir until all is well-combined. Add in small amounts of oatmeal to thicken the mixture, if needed, until mixture is thick and able to stick together.
5. Form into desired number of patties.
6. Cook on a medium-high skillet, flipping every 2-3 minutes, until burgers are cooked through.

7. Serve on buns with desired garnishes (in our house this ranged from ketchup to peanut butter & cilantro & soy sauce!)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Spinach and Black Bean Pasta

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I don't have much to say about this except that it was simple, healthy, and tasty. I adjusted the original recipe, upping the quantity of veggies and lessening the amount of pasta. This could easily be changed according to ones preferences. It's pretty plain, with most of the flavor coming from the vegetables, but its simplicity makes it a good dish for the month of January, when people are detoxing from all of the rich holiday foods. Topping it with parmesan (preferably fresh) if a must!

Spinach and Black Bean Pasta
adapted from allrecipes.com

-1 (12 oz) package whole wheat rotini pasta
-1 1/2 cups chicken broth
-3/4 bag fresh spinach
-1/2 cup chopped red onion
-1 clove garlic, chopped
-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
-1 package frozen broccoli
-1 can diced tomatoes
-Parmesan cheese

1. Bring a pot of lightly salted water to a bowl. Add rotini, and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until al dente. Drain.
2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring the chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat and mix in spinach, onion, garlic, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Stir in the black beans and broccoli. Cook and stir for 5-10 minutes.
3. Stir the tomatoes into the saucepan and continue cooking, 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
4. Mix the vegetables with the cooked pasta. Garnish with Parmesan cheese.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Orange French Toast with Challah

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Funny story about french toast--as a child, one Saturday morning, my parents told me that we were going to have french toast for breakfast. Being the pancake lover that I am, I threw a fit proclaiming that I wanted pancakes and hated french toast. My parents were amused because I'd never had french toast before and therefore couldn't possibly hate it. My reasoning for hating their breakfast of choice? It was square! Sigh. I was a good child, most of the time ;)

Now, I LOVE french toast, although I still tend to gravitate towards pancakes. The whole grain challah with cranberries was the perfect bread to use for skillet french toast, and we ended up using both loaves this way! To enhance the orange zest in the bread, I decided to add orange juice to my egg batter. Ryan was skeptical of this, but after a few bites he proclaimed that the meal was restaurant-worthy! That may be a slight exaggeration, but this was some high-quality french toast!!

Orange French Toast with Challah

-1 egg & 1 egg white, beaten
-2/3 cup orange juice
-1/3 cup milk
-heavy sprinkle of cinnamon
-bread, for dipping (I highly recommend challah--it soaks up the egg mixture nicely)

1. Combine eggs, orange juice, milk, and cinnamon in a bowl, mixing well with a fork.
2. Dip each slice of bread into the mixture, coating each side completely.
3. Place each piece of bread on a greased, hot skillet. Flip when brown and cook the other side until brown, about 2 minutes a side.
4. Serve with syrup and/or powdered sugar.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Twelve in Ten Challenge (Whole Grain Challah with Cranberries)

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Woo hoo! 1 challenge from my Twelve in Ten complete! I decided to start off easy for the first month and decided to make some type of yeast bread. The bread of choice: Whole Grain Challah with Cranberries. This turned out SO well, much better than expected. More than anything, I was proud of the way it looks! It's quite a beaut-don't ya think? :)

I wanted to make a challah bread because of the fact that it's so impressive looking and a google search brought me to this blog, which had the challah recipe from Healthy Bread in Five. As you know, Ryan loves anything with cranberries and orange zest, so I thought this would be a good choice! I halved the recipe, which made enough for 2 loaves. Because the recipe is from a copyrighted book, I am instead linking to the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day website, where they actually post the original recipe. My notes are below.

This bread is so yummy on its own, but we used it to make some excellent orange french toast, which I'll post tomorrow!

Whole Grain Challah with Cranberries Notes:**I ommitted the wheat gluten with no consequence
**When halving the original recipe, which called for 4 eggs, I used 3
**I kept my dough in the fridge for 4 days (made on a Sunday, baked on a Wednesday; the dough was relatively easy to handle)

Pictures of the Process:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Whole Wheat Beer Bread

This is the perfect accompaniment to any sort of soup, stew, or chili. It's thick and hearty and best served warm out of the oven. The bread is easy to throw together, and can easily be made with all-purpose flour instead of half whole-wheat, if you prefer less of a whole grain flavor! My mom first introduced me to beer bread, as she often used to buy the beer bread mix from Tastefully Simple. Those mixes are great, but this homemade version is about as easy and I bet you have all of the ingredients on hand!

Whole Wheat Beer Bread
recipe found here

-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
-1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
-4 1/2 tsp baking powder
-1 1/2 tsp salt
-1/3 cup packed brown sugar
-12 oz. beer (any variety)

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a loaf pan.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix until a stiff batter is formed.
3. Pour dough into loaf pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Crockpot Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Curry & Honey

(not the most photogenic soup!)

I was intrigued by this recipe when I saw it and immediately put it on our weekly menu. I love soup and I love crockpot recipes, so this already had things going for it! Julia and Lucy, her friend who visited last week, were actually the ones who put this soup together, I only had to do the final step with the immersion blender!

This is definitely an interesting soup. I liked it the best out of the four of us (me, Ryan, Julia, and Lucy). Ryan and Julia couldn't finish their bowls because of its spiciness, and I'm pretty sure Lucy only finished hers to be nice ;) The flavor itself was good, just really really spicy! The original recipe is below, but I suggest using a smaller amount of cayenne powder, or omitting completely. Also, I prefer a thicker soup, so I would also eliminate some of the water. 4 total cups of liquid is quite a bit. However, this is your judgment call.

The honey did help to quell some of the extreme spice, so if you make this, don't leave that out! We ate this with some hearty beer bread, which I'll be posting tomorrow!

Crockpot Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Curry & Honey
makes 4 servings

-1 head cauliflower
-3 tbsp olive oil
-1 tsp kosher salt
-1/2 tsp black pepper
-2 cups broth (chicken or vegetable)
-2 cups water
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-1 yellow onion, chopped in chunks
-2 1/2 tsp curry

1. Cut the cauliflower into florets, toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roast at 400F for 20 min, until the cauliflower is lightly brown and crispy.
2. Add chicken broth, water, and chopped onion to the crockpot. Season with cayenne pepper and curry powder.
3. Once the cauliflower is roasted, add it to the crockpot. Cover and cook on low for 6-7 hours, or on high for 3-4 hours, until the cauliflower and onion are tender.
4. Use an immersion blender (or transfer to regular blender in batches) to blend the cauliflower and onion.
5. Serve with drizzled honey on top.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Red Curry Shrimp

Yup, another shrimp dish. We had leftover shrimp and leftover coconut milk from our coconut shrimp dish...but this time I went a completely different route, spicy instead of sweet. VERY, VERY spicy! I was sweating and my nose was running when I ate this dish, but I still loved it! It could easily be made less spicy by using less curry paste, but if you're a fan of spice, use the measurements below. Ryan and I thought it tasted pretty similar to many of the curry dishes we get when we're out to eat. I also loved this because it literally took 20 minutes to make.

Red Curry Shrimp
**serves 2
recipe adapted from Thai Kitchen recipes

-1 can coconut milk (I used light and just the remainder of my can from the other night)
-1 tablespoon red curry paste
-1 tablespoon brown sugar
-1/2 lb. shrimp, shelled and devined
-2 tablespoons fish sauce
-1 cup frozen green beans
-dried basil

1. In a large skillet, heat half of the coconut milk. Stir in red curry paste and cook until well blended.
2. Add the remaining coconut milk and brown sugar, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add in frozen green beans while simmering.
3. Add shrimp and cook until shrimp are pinkish in color (~1-2 minutes). Stir in fish sauce and sprinkle with dried basil.

**We ate this over brown rice!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Grammy's Chocolate Cookies

A few weeks ago I signed up for a cookie exchange hosted by Steph of Steph Chows. Stephanie's blog is one of my all-time favorites--she has tons of great recipes, especially when it comes to baking! The rules of the exchange were to send 2 dozen cookies to our "assigned" partner by January 16th. My partner was Natalie of Natalie's Killer Cuisine (her cuisine is indeed killer!). In our emails before the exchange, she said she loved chocolate, so I opted to make a chocolately cookie. In my search for the perfect cookie, I found this recipe on Lovin' From the Oven. Full of chocolate, sugar, and butter...AND a Martha Stewart recipe?! I knew these had to be good! I loved how chewy they were--my sister described them as "brownie bite" cookies. Natalie, I hope you enjoyed them!!

**to see all of the cookies made for the cookie exchange, check out Steph's blog on the 16th!

Grammy's Chocolate Cookies
recipe found here, originally from Martha Stewart Living, Feb 2000

-2 cups all-purpose flour
-3/4 cup cocoa powder (original recipe calls for Dutch, but I didn't use and neither did Kim)
-1 tsp baking soda
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 1/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
-1 1/2 cups sugar (original recipe called for 2 cups, but Kim said they were too sweet)
-2 large eggs
-2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. Beat butter, sugar, and eggs with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and mix to combine.
3. Gradually add dry ingredients and combine with mixer on low speed. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and chill at least 1 hour, until dough is firm.
4. Roll dough into 1-inch balls and dip the top of each bowl in granulated sugar. Place on non-stick baking sheets and bake for 8 min at 350F. Cool for 5 minutes on baking sheet before cooling completely on wire baking racks.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kale Chips

A year ago, I had never even heard of kale. Then, as I started reading more and more food blogs and kept hearing about kale, kale "chips" in particular. I bought kale when we made our sweet potato soup, but I ran out of kale before being able to try it in chip form. I finally remembered to buy some more and gave it a shot. Ryan was wary at first, but after a few bites we were sold! It really is reminiscent of a potato chip, not necessarily in taste, but definitely with its crunch factor. I will be making these again and again as an easy side dish. Not only are they tasty, but they can be eaten with ketchup (I'm an avid ketchup fan), and kale is so good for you! Check out the health benefits: manganese, iron, copper, calcium, vitamin c, vitamin a, and more!

If you're never heard of these, surely the pictures are intriguing you :) Try them--I can't wait to hear what you think!

Kale Chips

-1 bunch of kale (more or less depending on how much you want)
-olive oil
-seasoned salt & garlic powder

1. Rinse kale and thoroughly dry. Rip kale leaves off of stems and arrange pieces on a baking sheet.
2. Lightly mist with olive oil or cooking spray. Season with seasoned salt & garlic powder, or desired seasonings.
3. Bake at 375F for 10 minutes, until edges are brown and kale looks crispy.
4. Eat plain or with ketchup!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Coconut Shrimp

YUM! This is another meal I made for Ryan and I before Julia arrived because she is not a fan of shrimp (I want to work to change that though!). When Ryan and I eat out at Thai or Vietnamese places, we always gravitate to the coconut flavored dishes, so I was confident we'd like this...and indeed we did! I loved the sweet coconut sauce. I used light coconut milk and half the sugar and it was still plenty sweet. Because I figured it wouldn't reheat well, I only cooked enough shrimp for 2 portions, but still made the full sauce amount. I'm so glad I did this as it was perfect mixed in with the brown rice we ate this on top of!

Coconut Shrimp
as seen here, original recipe from here

-1 lb jumbo shrimp (peeled and devined with tails off)
-salt & pepper
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1 green onion, chopped
-1 tbsp amaretto liquor
-1/2 cup coconut milk (I used light)
-1/4 cup heavy cream
-2 tbsp sugar (I used 1)
-1 tsp coconut extract
-1 tsp vanilla extract

1. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, season with salt & pepper, and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add amaretto and green onions, cooking for another 1-2 minutes.
2. Remove the shrimp and set aside. Add coconut milk, heavy cream, and sugar to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce is reduced by half (~6 minutes).
3. Return shrimp to the pan. Add vanilla and coconut extracts. Simmer for another 1-2 minutes.

4. Serve over rice and top with extra sauce.