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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Nutty No Bake Energy Bars

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After buying granola bars a few weeks in a row at the grocery store, per Ryan's request, I decided it was time to make my own batch again. I have a few tried and true granola bar recipes already: banana nut with dried cranberries, chocolate peanut butter, coconut almond apricot, and my very favorite, mocha coconut, but of course couldn't resist trying something new. 
I found a no-bake granola bar on Epicurious, but it had a lot of added sugar and reviews mentioned that they were dry and crumbly. Because they already had honey, I eliminated any other added sugar but added some coconut oil to keep them moist. I also threw some flaxseed meal in there for an extra boost of fiber and healthy fats.
These don't take more than fifteen minutes start to finish and you don't even have to turn your oven on! I recommend sticking the pan in the freezer for a few hours until they firm up. I ended up cutting them into bars and then freezing them. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap (I didn't, but after a week they started to get freezer burnt) and keep them in a freezer bag. We pulled them out as needed for a pre-workout snack or to throw in our lunches. 
Now that I've been once again reminded how easy it is to make homemade granol bars--not to mention giving you the option to customize to your liking--I won't be picking them up in the store anytime soon!

One Year Ago: Texas Sheet Cake
Two Years Ago: Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette 
Three Years Ago: Zucchini Banana Bread

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Taco Chili

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This is a recipe to pass along to your neighbor who insists they can't cook. Or your brother, who's looking for an easy, inexpensive meal for him and his college buddies. Or you, because you don't have time for a labor intensive meal but you're trying to avoid hitting the drive-thru.

The point is, you can't go wrong with this recipe. You can handle it, so long as you can handle opening and dumping a bunch of cans and browning some turkey. You can pay for it, because it's going to feed a lot more people for a lot less than a trip to McDonalds will. You can't screw it up, and my experience making it is testament to that.
I got this recipe from my friend Amanda, who actually passed it along to our friend Maggie. Maggie had made it a few times for us and I finally asked for the recipe. Though I've posted the original recipe below, let it be known that I forgot the tomato sauce, subbed jalapeño salsa for the diced tomatoes, added a bunch of spices in place of the taco seasoning, and used frozen corn instead of a can. You'd have never known I strayed from the original recipe...and I guarantee you can do the same! Add black beans, eliminate the meat (or double it!), or throw your favorite salsa in there. I promise you'll end up with a hearty, comforting batch of soup that you'll find yourself making again and again. As for the name, it's a heated debate whether this is taco soup or a chili, so I decided to settle the debate and compromise, dubbing it "taco chili"!

One Year Ago: Wilted Greens and Roasted Sweet Potato Winter Salad
Two Years Ago: Cranberry, Pistachio, and Ginger Blondie Cake
Three Years Ago: Ten Minute Tomato Soup

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Buttermilk Clover Rolls



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I remember when Ryan and I began registering for wedding gifts and I used the laser scan gun to add a KitchenAid mixer to our registry. Ryan glanced at the price and nearly had a heart attack before trying to convince me that it wasn't a necessity. He claimed that I wouldn't use it much, and that no one was going to buy it for me anyway.
It was one of the first, but certainly not the last, times I proved Ryan wrong ;) Not only did his aunt generously gift us with the stand mixer, but it is the most-used tool in our kitchen! Mine has a prominent spot on the countertop. I wouldn't dream of hiding it in a cabinet because I'd constantly be lugging it back out. From baking to bread making to chicken shredding, the KitchenAid is used at least four or five times a week, and sometimes four or five times in one day! 

These buttermilk clover rolls were mixed up in the KitchenAid. If you don't have one, you can certainly  knead these by hand. These don't have a super long rise time (an hour), making these easy enough to whip up, even on a weeknight. I froze most of our batch and we've been pulling them out to eat with soups and salads. You can sub some of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour, just know that your rolls will get considerably heavier and denser.
Are you a KitchenAid owner?

One Year Ago: Banana Bread Ice Cream with Peanut Butter and Chocolate
Two Years Ago: Oregano and Prosciutto Pinwheels 
Three Years Ago: Butternut Squash Lasagna

Buttermilk Clover Rolls
from the Whole Foods recipe app

Ingredients:
-3 1/4 cups flour
-1 tsp salt
-1 package active dry yeast
-1 cup low-fat buttermilk
-1 tbsp honey
-5 tbsp butter, melted and divided
-1 egg

Directions:
1. Whisk together 1 1/2 cups of flour with the salt and yeast. Set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, heat buttermilk just until warm to the touch (about 115F). Remove pot from heat and whisk in honey, 3 tbsp of melted butter, and the egg.
3. Pour buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture and mix (I used the dough hook on my stand mixer but you could also mix by hand) until a thick batter is formed. Mix in remaining 1 3/4 cups flour.
4. Knead dough by hand or in the stand mixer until smooth and no longer sticky.
5. Divide dough into 36 equally sized balls (about 1 inch). Arrange 3 balls of dough in each cup of a greased 12-muffin tin. Loosely cover and allow to rise in a warm spot for 1 hour.
6. Preheat over to 375F. Brush rolls with remaining 2 tbsp melted butter and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Layered Asian Dip



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A few weeks ago I attended a trivia night. I'm not sure how things are where you live, but in St. Louis, trivia nights are a popular form of entertainment and a frequently used mechanism for fundraising. I actually help run a trivia night for YoungLife College St. Louis each year (writing the questions) so I'm quite familiar with them. This trivia night, however, I was on the other end of things, as a participant.
Our table of eight put up a pretty mediocre performance. We went in thinking we had a decent amount of knowledge about a variety of topics (medicine, science, sports, food, etc...), but the questions were written for a demographic a good twenty years older than us. We certainly gave it our best fight and we had a ton of fun, despite what the scoreboard showed (cough--third from last--cough). 
Besides the company, the best part of the evening was definitely the food. We all pitched in and came up with quite an assortment, from homemade chocolate chip cookies to chips and salsa to this layered Asian dip. This kind of reminded me of Mexican Layered dip, but instead of ground beef, tomatoes, and lettuce it had chicken, carrots, and peanuts. Topped with a tangy sauce, this was a refreshing change from the Mexican-version. The only change I'd make next time would be to add some additional hot sauce! Served with crackers, this dip is sure to help you forget your trivia woes!

One Year Ago: Eat & Repeat: Salt
Two Years Ago: M&M Dream Bars
Three Years Ago: Carrot Cake Pancakes

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Finding Time in 2013: Rooster Cafe

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 I mentioned that the purpose of my 2013 Challenge, dubbed "Finding Time in 2013", was to eliminate any rules, unlike what I've done for my past three challenges. Nothing against rules...I'm a rule-follower to be sure, but our lives are so packed and structured and scheduled that I didn't want to have to abide by any additional structure here on the blog. At the end of the day, my 2013 challenge is to slow down a little bit and make time for things I've been meaning to make or eat, but haven't gotten around to.
To kick the year off, we headed to Rooster, a breakfast/lunch crêpe and sandwich cafe in downtown St. Louis. I'm a huge fan of Bailey's Chocolate Bar and Bailey's Range, two of Rooster's sister restaurants. I've actually been to Rooster once before, but it was without Ryan, and after a great first experience, I was dying to go back.
Last Sunday after church, my sister Renatta, Ryan, and I headed to Rooster. At noon, it was infinitely more packed than when I'd been before, at 8 am. The restaurant expanded in the last year or so and even at its new size, it was busting at the seams with crowds of people waiting for a seat. We bided our time with Bloody Mary's and coffee, and the thirty minutes quickly passed. 

Their menu is a crêpe lovers dream! To be honest, I couldn't even tell you what else is on the menu because I was so mesmerized by the selection of crêpes. The first time there I tried the goat cheese #2 (goat cheese, fresh spinach, and tomato jam). This time I switched things up and ordered the brie #2 (creative names, eh?). The brie #2 included brie, apples roasted in cider, cherry chutney, and arugula (note-it's not on the online menu, so their online menu must not be the most current). Renatta ordered a similar crepe but without the cherry chutney or arugula. Ryan switched things up with the bacon #1 (bacon, blue cheese, mushrooms, caramelized onions, and arugula).

We "mmm-ed" our way through our brunch, commenting on the perfectly light crepe batter and the brilliance of the ingredient combinations. I would've had serious entree envy for Ryan's, which was amazing, had mine not been so fantastic itself. I'm dying to make some cherry chutney and slather it on anything and everything!
Of course, we couldn't help but finish the meal off with a sweet crepe: nutella, strawberries, and a scoop of Bailey's ice cream. It was the perfect ending and Renatta had to show restraint not to lick the plate.
Ironically enough, our service was incredibly slow. Fitting, considering that's kind of the whole point of this, huh? In true dedication to the challenge, I didn't even let me stress me out. I had a paper to write at home and a house to clean and blog posts to write, but I forced myself to forget. Instead I focused on two of my favorite people, laughing and telling stories and shamelessly staring at the man who devoured his breakfast sandwich, oblivious to the fact that juices from it were creating a mess all over the table and himself. It is always, always worth it to slow down and savor...and I'm more than willing to do it at Rooster!

One Year Ago: Dark Chocolate Cranberry Almond Quinoa Cookies
Two Years Ago: Baked Vegetable Egg Rolls
Three Years Ago: Puppy Chow

  Rooster on Urbanspoon

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Odds & Ends

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1. A few weeks ago I mentioned my visit to Girl & The Goat in Chicago. My friend Maggie passed along the link to this Hulu "A Day in the Life" special on Stephanie Izard, the chef at Girl and the Goat. If you have a free twenty-five minutes, I highly recommend watching it...even if you don't know Stephanie and have never been to her restaurant. Not only it is interesting to see what a chef's day to day life is like, but I found her particularly interesting--I love how committed she is to being in the kitchen and actually doing some of the cooking rather than just overseeing what's happening. 
2. I started and finished Defending Jacob in two days. I could not put this book down and I'm still thinking about it a few weeks later. It deals with some sensitive subject matter (murder of a teenager), but is so incredibly well-written. I guarantee you'll have a hard time doing anything else until you get to the last page!

3. Are you watching the Super Bowl next weekend? We're obviously sad that our beloved Packers won't be playing, but will still be watching...if for nothing else than for the food and the commercials! Wondering what to make? Stop right there. Start with these hot ham and cheese sandwiches (that you can make ahead of time!) or slow cooker tequila turkey chili paired with this winter salad featuring cashews, pear, and craisins and finish with butterscotch blondie bars with peanut pretzel caramel. You can't go wrong! (for a bunch of other ideas, check out my Superbowl party idea post from last year with appetizers, desserts, and more!)

4. Food for thought: Reflections on a 35 Year Marriage...loved this!

Two Years Ago: Scotch Oatmeal Soup (yup--oats in soup!)
Three Years Ago: Mexican Pot Pie

Friday, January 25, 2013

Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies with Salted Peanuts

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Over a week ago I teased my Facebook fans, mentioning these brownies. Shame on me for not getting them posted sooner, but I promise they are worth the wait. I've put peanut butter chips in brownies before and mixed peanut butter and nutella with brownie batter, but these are by far my favorite peanut butter brownie creation!
The brownies are dense, erring on the side of fudgy rather than cakey (just how I like them!). Topped with a thin layer of peanut butter frosting followed by ganache, they're sure to be a hit for any chocolate peanut butter fans out there. I cut them into pretty small squares, figuring they would be pretty rich. While they are rich, they weren't so rich to keep me going back for a second or a third! Store these in the fridge and don't worry about bringing them to room temperature to serve; they're best with a bit of chill still in them!

Want to make them extra indulgent? Double the peanut butter frosting layer!

One Year Ago: Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa
Two Years Ago: Kaleslaw with Red Pepper
Three Years Ago: Three Bean Salad

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Steak Fajita Lettuce Wraps

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I decided to put a spin on the more traditional (Asian) lettuce wraps and instead took the ingredients for steak fajitas and stuck them in lettuce instead of tortillas. If you're anything like me you'd rather fill up on tortilla chips than tortillas, and by swapping in lettuce that saves more room for salty chips!
These are a little messy to eat, as I think all lettuce wraps are. Ryan abandoned the "wrap" idea and instead kind of piles his together on his plate and ate it with a fork and knife. I'm a little less civilized and just dug in, keeping plenty of napkins on hand for the salsa juices that dripped out the sides.

You can obviously switch these up for whatever random ingredients you have on hand. Chicken or ground turkey instead of steak, throw some zucchini in there (I had some shredded carrots that I added), top them with guacamole. These would be a fun party idea too--put out all the fixins and let people customize the to their liking!

One Year Ago: Homemade Oatmeal Cream Pies
Two Years Ago: Whole Wheat Quick Bread with Pumpkin Seeds (love this!)
Three Years Ago: Greek Salad Pita Sandwiches

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake

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I feel like I went a long time without any lemon-flavored baked goods. Then all of a sudden it was Lemon Flaxseed Loaf followed by Lemon Rosemary Scones and now this Lemon Buttermilk Bundt Cake! I obviously can't get enough of tart lemons and I particularly like the bright glow they give to this cake!

This recipe from Epicurious could be made into cupcakes or a bundt cake, but I'm so glad I went with the bundt. I think topping them with buttercream might have detracted from the lemon taste. Besides, sometimes simple is better! 
I brought this to church and wasn't sure how it'd be received because to me, lemon feels like a love it or leave it flavor. As it turned out, people loved it! I cut pretty small pieces and there were only a few by the time we left. I shipped a few of the leftovers off with my sister Renatta and Ryan and I gladly finished off the rest. 
I have a jar of lemon curd in the pantry so I'm thinking that'll be used next! Any recipe ideas?

One Year Ago: Roasted Tomato Basil Soup
Two Years Ago: Mini Berry Swirl Cheesecakes
Three Years Ago: White Chocolate Toffee Coconut Oatmeal Cookies with Chocolate Chips

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

South Indian Lentil Cakes with Raita

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I consider myself very fortunate that I'm married to such a non-picky eater. Ryan honestly has no idea what he'll be eating on a day to day basis. Occasionally I'll ask him if he has any dinner ideas for the upcoming week, but for the most part, I choose our meals for the week and he comes to dinner ready to eat whatever I put in front of him.
Meals like these South Indian Lentil Cakes probably wouldn't fly if he weren't so easygoing. Not only do they look alien-like, but most people don't exactly jump for joy when they hear lentils are for dinner. In true Ryan fashion, however, he chowed down happily. 
I have to say, for as weird as these look and sound, they were actually a really awesome dinner. They would be a great way to introduce skeptics to lentils and an even better way to sneak some vegetables into your meal. You can't at all taste the peas or spinach that are blended into the mixture. Instead, the cakes are a little nutty with an overwhelming flavor of fresh herbs, especially when coupled with the raita. 

One word of caution--you need to soak the lentils and rice for several hours before making the meal. I soaked them the day before and then drained before refrigerating overnight. Once you do that, it's an easy process of blending everything together in the food processor and cooking on the stovetop. I can't wait to make these again!

One Year Ago: Steamed Kale and Broccoli with Sundried Tomatoes
Two Years Ago: Mini Double Chocolate Cheesecakes
Three Years Ago: Pineapple Orange Pork Chops

Monday, January 21, 2013

Salty Chocolate Chunk Cookies

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These cookies are wrapped up in a ribbon because they are good enough to gift! I really loved the soft and chewy chocolate chip cookies I made a few months ago, but was anxious to find a version that had that texture but used all butter, instead of shortening. Behold--Bon Appetit made it happen! I was intrigued by the recipe, which includes not one but two egg yolks in addition to an egg, and also includes a small amount of powdered sugar. I'm not sure if it's one of these changes from the typical chocolate chip cookie recipe that created such magic, but I plan to use this base for my cookies from now on! I'm already dreaming up all sorts of mix-ins to try. That being said, the classic chocolate chip (or chocolate chunk, really) was a winner! I used some two Ghirardelli dark chocolate bars that included toffee and almonds, but you can use whatever chocolate you wish. The recipe only makes twenty-four cookies and they didn't last more than twenty-four hours (we shared with friends--we're cookie monsters, but not THAT much!). 
Don't skip out on the sea salt--it makes  the cookie!

One Year Ago: Chocolate Caramel Banana Hazelnut Tart
Two Years Ago: Mini Turtle Cheesecakes
Three Years Ago: Popovers

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Your Help Needed: Alexia Recipe Inspiration

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Hey guys...in lieu of a normal post today, I wanted to mention a few things in regards to the Alexia Tastemaker Program that I'm a part of.

In the next few months I'm going to be developing a handful of recipes featuring Alexia products. However, to kick things off, I want YOUR help. Here's how it works....

1. Check out Alexia's products on their website (any are fair game--doesn't have to be the sweet potato rolls pictured above!).
2. Brainstorm a recipe that includes at least one of their products.
3. Leave a comment on this post, or head on over to my Facebook page and leave your idea there.
4. Next Saturday I'll choose my favorite of the suggestions and attempt it, then highlight it in a post the week of 27 January.

If I pick YOUR suggestion, you'll be sent a prize package from Alexia featuring a bunch of kitchen goodies and some coupons for free products. I'm looking for creative (but appetizing!) recipe ideas. Will you incorporate Alexia's French Rolls? Maybe their Italian Saute? I can't wait to see!

And finally, don't forget that you, too, can become an Alexia Tastemaker. Check out the graphic below for some details and then head on over to their Facebook page to get started!


Saturday, January 19, 2013

Odds & Ends

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1. It's no secret that I LOVE Cooking Light. I've been subscribing for probably four or five years now and I always read every issue cover to cover. It's the source of inspiration behind MANY of my recipes (pumpkin cinnamon rolls, one of my favorite asparagus dishes, and baked black beans with chorizo, to name a few). When they reached out to me and asked me to be one of their featured bloggers, it took me all of two seconds to reply with a resounding yes! It really means nothing new, since I was already cooking loads of their recipes and sharing them here and will continue to do so. You can find my blogger profile on their website here and you now have the opportunity to subscribe to Cooking Light at a discount. Just click the graphic below, or the Cooking Light button on the right side of the page. (In full disclosure, I am not being paid to promote Cooking Light. I do, however, receive a [tiny] cut of any subscriptions that are purchased. Even if not, I'd still be suggesting you sign up for this great mag!)


2. Remember how I was in L.A. for work, and excited about the warm temperatures? My excitement was pointless--I literally went outdoors in daylight twice: when I arrived and when I left. SAD. Despite insanely long and tiring days, we did have the chance to leave the basement of the hotel in the evenings to be wined and dined. I have to give high marks to Boa (favorite: the beets, the marinated mushrooms, and the mashed potatoes!!!), C&O Trattoria (favorite: garlic knots!), and Cafe del Rey (favorite: ahi tuna and truffle pizza!). 

image courtesy of Tyler Scott Photography
3. I've mentioned my (soon-to-be) rockstar cousin Ben before and he deserves a special mention today. The guy set out to raise $5,500 via Kickstarter in the month of January to record an album. Basically Ben had 30 days on the Kickstarter funding platform to get enough "backers" to support him....the guy SMASHED his goal, raising the money in four days. FOUR. That's a lot of money and a short amount of time...and he still has a few days left to reach his new stretch goal of $7,500 (info on that here). I'm proud to back Ben, proud to call him my cousin, and SO excited to be a part of his new album. My desire to be artistic and musical is well-documented here and if the best I can do is pay for others to do it, I'm happy to help! 

4. While I was gone, Ryan made this slow cooker sweet potato black bean chili, except this time he added chicken to it. There were still some leftovers by the time I got home and I was once again reminded that this is one of my favorite slow cooker meals! It's awesome with or without the chicken, but either way, make it soon!

Two Years Ago: Southwestern Potato Nachos (one of my favorites!)