Wednesday, December 21, 2011

| it ain't christmas without sugar cookies |

I love sugar cookies. I love them when they are chewy and flaky. I hate them when they are dry and crumbly. I don't like they overly sugary...more like a really good shortbread with some extra sweetness added in. But when they are just right? Man, I love them. Favorite kind of cookie - hands down.

I am a crappy baker. I have a hard time following recipes. Also, I hate any kind of baking that involves rolling the dough out (or dough at all, honestly). But my friend Lynn made these one night when we were at her house for dinner. They were SO good. And they seemed to be SO easy. So I gave them a try. 

Yep. They are heaven on a plate. I freeze some in hopes of not eating them all at once, but, really - who am I kidding? I just end up eating them frozen. Sigh. The dough is incredibly easy to work with. You probably already have all the ingredients. Just go make some.

German Sugar Cookies 
(note: I have no idea if they're really German, but if they are - thank you Germany)

Mix together: until smooth:
1 C butter
2/3 C sugar
½ C light corn syrup
1 t lemon juice
1 egg

Gradually beat in::
4 C flour
¼ t salt

Chill 1 hour. On floured surface roll out dough 1/3 at a time to 1/8 “ thickness. Cut into shapes.
Bake 350 for 10-12 minutes on a greased cookie sheet. These freeze well.


*******
And...a little something-something for the top.

Powdered Sugar Icing 

From Christmas-Cookies.com
 
This flavorful, smooth, slightly translucent, shiny glaze is great for decorating sugar cookies or drizzling over other desserts.
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar 
2 tablespoons water 
1 tablespoon butter, softened 
1 tablespoon light corn syrup 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
food color, if desired

Combine powdered sugar, water, 1 tablespoon butter, corn syrup and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla in small mixer bowl; mix until powdered sugar is moistened. Beat at medium speed until smooth, adding additional water if necessary, to reach desired glazing consistency. Tint with food color, if desired.


Note: Originally found on the website of Better Homes and Gardens. We posted it here because it has disappeared from their website, and it's a great recipe.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

| mennonites can cook |

One of our Thanksgiving guests brought some AMAZING peanut bread and, when I asked her for the recipe, proceeded to gift me with the entire awesome cookbook from whence it came. So nice! The book is More-with-Less by Doria Janzen Longacre. It is "recipes and suggestions by Mannonites on how to eat better and consume less of the world's limited food resources."

After wading about five pages into the GINORMOUS section of recipes with lentils, I came across this one for Kusherie (Egyptian rice with lentils). It reminded me of a dish I've had at our local Turkish restaurant, so we gave it a try for dinner last night. Super delish. As I said to my husband, "Wow! Nice work, Egypt!" and he responded, "Yeah, thanks for being the cradle of civilization and all that."

So I give you the recipe and encourage you to buy the book. I'm looking forward to trying more recipes soon. And...as a bonus, the peanut bread recipe follows.

KUSHERIE

  1. RICE/LENTILS: Heat 2 T oil in a heavy saucepan or skillet. Add 1 1/4 cup lentils. Brown them over medium heat about 5 minutes, stirring often.
  2. Remove from heat and allow the oil to cool before adding 3 c boiling water or stock, plus 1 t salt and some pepper (note: if your stock is salty, you may want to omit that salt).
  3. Cook uncovered for 10 minutes over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 c rice (I used jasmine) and 1 c of boiling water or stock. 
  4. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low, cover, and simmer 25 minutes without stirring.
  5. SAUCE: In a saucepan, combine 3/4 c tomato paste, 3 c tomato juice/sauce/pureed tomatoes, 1 green pepper (diced), celery leaves (chopped), 1 T sugar, 1 t cumin, 1/4 t cayenne or crushed chilis. Boil sauce then reduce and simmer 20-30 minutes.
  6. BROWNED ONIONS: Saute 3 onions (sliced) and 4 cloves of garlic (minced) in about 2 T oil until brown.
  7. YOGURT: They suggested serving with yogurt. I used plain Greek yogurt and added some lemon juice to it because I had it on hand. I think parsley would also be nice.
  8. TO SERVE: Put the rice/lentils on a platter, then top with sauce and then the onions. Serve the yogurt on the side.
Note: I thought there was too much tomato sauce for the rice mixture. I think I'd reduce it by about 1/3 next time. Also, the recipe says it serves 6-8, but I'd say it's more like 4-6 for entrees.





THREE-GRAIN PEANUT BREAD
Preheat oven to 325.

Combine in a mixing bowl:
1 c white flour
1/2 c quick cook oats
1/2 c yellow cornmeal
1/2 c dry milk powder
1/2 c sugar
3 t baking powder
1 t salt

Cut in 2/3 c creamy peanut butter. Blend and pour in 1 egg and 1 1/2 c milk. Mix well. Place in greased and floured 9x5'' loaf pan. Bake 1 hour and 10 minutes. Cool 10 minutes and remove from pan.

Note: this bread freezes well. It's also fantastic toasted with strawberry jam.


Thursday, November 17, 2011

| white chili with corn dumplings |

When we lived in Texas, a friend introduced me to the joys of white chili. Since becoming a vegetarian, though, I haven't had any because I've never seen a recipe without chicken and haven't been inspired to create one of my own. Until this week....nom nom nom.

Usually, I like white chili served over pasta, but we just had pasta earlier this week, so I decided to mix it up with some dumplings instead.

WHITE CHILI with CORN DUMPLINGS
1) Heat some olive or safflower oil in a stock pot. Add a couple cloves of minced garlic and a small onion, chopped fine. Cook until it starts to soften.
2) Add your favorite veggies - probably a couple cups. I used some frozen veggies that I had on had - some "soup mix" (green beans, peas, potatoes, okra, corn) and also some frozen green peppers.
3) Add a can of creamed corn. Add a large can of diced green chiles (about 7 oz, I think).
4) Add your spices. I used a couple tablespoons of cumin and about a teaspoon of oregano.
5) Add a can of drained white beans.
6) Next comes some veggie broth. I don't know how much I used. Probably 2-4 cups.
7) Simmer until everything is looking cooked.
8) Make up your dumplings. I used 1 1/2 cups white flour, 1/2 cup corn meal, 1 heaping tablespoon of baking powder, 1 teaspoon of salt, and about a cup of whole milk. I also added about a teaspoon of smoked paprika because I heart smoked paprika. Stir with a fork. It should be about biscuit consistency.
9) Bring your soup up to a light boil and then drop the dumpling mixture on by the heaping tablespoon. I covered the whole top of the pot with dumplings cause that's how I roll.
10) Cover the pot and let the dumplings cook for 15 minutes.
11) I served our soup with some guacamole, grated pepper jack cheese, and lime juice on top. I would have added cilantro if we'd had any on hand.

Enjoy!

| my favorite weird recipe |

I am lucky to have several friends who are awesome vegetarian cooks. My friend Lynn gave me her Word file of favorite recipes a few years ago and whenever I'm lacking inspiration, my husband and I look through it and find new recipes to try. This one, for "black bean pasta", has been a favorite of ours for a long time. When I first read it, I thought it sounded weird. I never would have tried it, but for Lynn's note "this is my favorite recipe!" Well, I knew she had great taste, so we tried it, despite it's bizarre flavor combos. Man, am I glad we did. Our one-year-old loves it, too.


Lynn's Black Bean Pasta

In dry skillet, brown 1 T sesame seeds
REMOVE from heat (or the seeds will pop) and add
3 T soy sauce (lite)
3 T balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
2 T dried parsley or cilantro
1T minced dried garlic
1 T minced dried onion
½ t hot pepper flakes or 1 t hot sauce
1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
Toss with 8 oz angel hair pasta

Thursday, October 20, 2011

| tasty lentil side |

I don't mean to brag, but I just made the best lentils my mother-in-law has ever had. No, a correction. The lentil soup at our local Turkish restaurant has the best lentils she's ever had, but these come in second. Another correction. I do mean to brag because these lentils were off the chain.

We were having zucchini, basil, and cream pasta for dinner and I needed to throw together a side dish with some protein. I first thought of white beans, but we were out, so it had to be lentils. Here's what I did.

BUTTERED LENTILS WITH ROOT VEGGIES
1) I boiled about 1/2 cup of lentils in an ample amount of water with a little veggie stock base and about 1/4 cup of finely chopped herbs. I used lovage, because we just got some in our CSA. But you could use any ole herb that sounds good. I let them boil for about 15-20 minutes, until they were soft, but not falling apart. (P.S. Lovage is amazing. It tastes a lot like celery leaves, but better).

2) I sliced baby carrots into quarters, lengthwise. I did the same with some long radishes from the CSA. I'd say there was about 2 cups of veggies, in total.

3) I headed 3 T of butter in the cast iron skillet. Once it was hot, I added a couple cloves of garlic, sliced thin. I let it soften, then added the veggies.

4) I put the radishes face-down and the carrots just however. I let it cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until the radishes started to blister. Then I stirred it all up and let them finish cooking until the veggies were al dente.

5) I added about a tablespoon of chopped parsley and about a tablespoon of lemon juice.

6) I took the lentils out of their water with a slotted spoon and transferred them into the butter/veggie mix. Stir, stir, and serve.

Heavenly.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

| rosti = thank you switzerland |

My mother-in-law, who is a big-time genealogist told me a few years ago that I'm Swiss. And after our dinner tonight, I have to agree. These are definitely my people.

I recently received The Earthbound Cook by Myra Goodman. I have to say that, in general, I'm underwhelmed by the book. It would be a good one for people who know almost nothing about cooking or very little about eating in season. But if you're already into that kind of thing, there's not a lot new here. It's certainly no Moosewood. That being said, there are a few recipes that I definitely want to try and, tonight, we started with Rosti.

Rosti (pronouced RAW-stee, ROOSH-tee, RO-sti, or REU-shti) is basically the best hashbrown potatoes you've ever eaten. No, seriously. Goodman suggests serving them with sauteed veggies and a fried egg on top. And I would heartily agree. I also added a dollop of Greek yogurt with lemon juice. It was fan-freaking-tastic.

Thank you, Switzerland.

POTATOES ROSTI
I'm going to tell you my version of the recipe - which was actually pretty close to her instructions

1 to 1 1/4 pounds russet potatoes, shredded (about 3 cups)
1/2 medium onion, shredded (about 1/2 cup)
4 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus black pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil (I used safflower instead)

1. Shred your potatoes and onion. Put them in cold water to soak for 5 minutes. While they're soaking, grate your cheese and set it aside.
2. Drain the potato mixture and then rinse it again to get all the starches off. Drain and press hard into your colander to remove as much water as possible.
3. DON'T SKIP THIS STEP: put the potatoes into a clean and dry kitchen towel. Wrap tightly and squeeze out as much water as you are able. Then squeeze again.
4. Heat the oil in a skillet over med-high heat. Melt the butter in it. You want a 12 inch skillet, preferably cast iron.
5. While that's heating, mix the potatoes, cheese, flour, salt and pepper in a dry bowl.
6. Dump the potatoes into the pan, press it down into an even layer with your hands. Cover and cook for 6 minutes. Remove the cover and cook 6 more minutes.
7. Use a spatula to loosen the bottom of the Rosti from the pan. It should be all hard and glorious on the bottom, but you've got to get it unstuck before you do the next step.
8. Slide the Rosti onto a plate, then flip it back onto the skillet so you can cook the other side. Cook, uncovered about 8 more minutes.
9. Transfer to a serving plate, top with sauteed veggies and a fried egg. Cut into wedges and serve. This will probably serve 3 people if you do 3 eggs.

For the veggie saute, Goodman recommends 1/2 an onion, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 5 oz baby spinach and a seeded tomato. I didn't have those, so what I did was 1/2 an onion, 1 cup mushrooms, about a cup of chopped kale, and about 1/2 cup of diced yellow squash. No tomatoes around here anymore, so I added about a cup of diced canned tomatoes. It was super tasty. You could do any kind of veggies you like, really.

ENJOY!


Sunday, October 2, 2011

| gnocchi to die for |

If you like to cook (or even just like to think of yourself as a cook but never really have time to do it) you NEED to have a subscription to Cook's Illustrated. It's like having a little bit of Alton Brown delivered to your doorstep each month...minus the wonky personality and weird camera tricks. This magazine has tons of brilliant tips and the bulk of each issue is devoted to taking recipes for "standards" and perfecting them. The most recent issue had recipes for roasted chicken, pot-roasted pork loin, vegetable lasagna, and chocolate pudding.

There's nothing earth-shattering about the choices of dishes...what's amazing is the end product when you cook them. Each article tells how they've painstakingly gone through various iterations of the recipe, trying out old ones, tinkering, and having lots of taste tests. The final recipe is ALWAYS perfection.

Now that's I've extolled the magazine's virtues, I want to share a recipe from the latest issue. If you try this and like it, or if the magazine just sounds good, BUY IT NOW. They are not paying me to say this. I am paying them to receive their magazine.


GNOCCHI FROM COOK’S ILLUSTRATED (Sep./Oct. 2011)
(note: these aren’t the exact instructions. I’m paraphrasing. Also, I redid the original portions – doubled it)

Makes about 6 entree-sized portions.

For the gnocchi:
4 pounds russet potatoes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
8 ounces (1 ½ cups plus 2 T) all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
2 teaspoons salt (plus 1 T for the boiling water)

For the sauce:
8 T butter (1 stick)
2 small shallots, minced (I used green/spring onions, b/c that’s what we had)
2 t minced fresh sage
1 T lemon juice

1)    Make the gnocchi dough/pieces:
-       You’re going to need to bake your potatoes. To save time, microwave them for 10 minutes (after piercing with a fork) and then bake them at 450 for 18-20 minutes.
-       Remove them from the oven and peel them right away (hold them with a hot pad or dish towel). Throw away the skins.
-       Run the potatoes through ricer or a food mill onto a rimmed baking sheet. Let them cool for about 5 minutes.
-       Transfer just 6 cups (32 ounces) of the potatoes to a large bowl. If you have extra, don’t use them b/c you want your proportions to be correct. Add the two eggs – stir gently with a fork until just combined.
-       Sprinkle the flour (all of it) and the salt (2 t of it) onto the mixture. Stir until no large dry pockets of flour remain.
-       Turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until it’s smooth but still slightly sticky, about 1 minute. Dust the counter as needed with more flour.
-       Divide the dough into 16 pieces of the same size (a bench cutter is handy). Roll each piece into a snake that’s about ½ inch in diameter. Use a fork to cut the snakes into ¾ inch long dumplings.
-       To shape the gnocchi you need to roll it on the fork tines. Turn the fork with the tines facing down. Press each dumpling  against the tines with your thumb, then roll off down the tines to create the indentations.
-       Place the formed gnocchi onto pieces of parchment paper. You’re going to want four pieces of paper to cook them in four batches.
2)    Make the sauce:
-       First, get a big pot of water boiling on the stove with the tablespoon of salt in it.
-       In a large skilled, heat the butter over med-high high, stirring occasionally. When the butter is browned and has a nice, nutty aroma, turn it off (about 90 seconds of cooking).
-       Add in the shallots/onions and the sage to the hot butter and stir. Wait about a minute, while stirring, then add the lemon juice.
-       Cover the sauce to keep it warm.
3)    Cooking the gnocchi:
-       Once your water is boiling, it’s time to cook the gnocchi. This is the easiest/fastest part!
-       Add ¼ of your gnocchi pieces (you can just slide them off the parchment paper into the water). Give it one quick stir, then leave them alone until they start to float (about 90 seconds). Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer directly into the sauce. Try to drain off the water carefully as you move them.
-       Repeat with the other three batches. Toss the gnocchi and sauce to combine. Serve. Die and go to heaven.

Monday, September 26, 2011

| fall = applesauce |

If you're lucky enough to live in a part of the world where apples are abundant in fall, you need to make homemade applesauce. It's SO easy and you will never want to go back to regular applesauce again.

As with most of my "recipes" I'm not really so good on measurements - sorry.

STOVETOP APPLESAUCE

5-6 medium/large apples (baking-type apples work best, but anything is fine)
water
1/4 sweetener (brown sugar, sugar, honey are all nice choices)
1-2 T lemon juice
cinnamon to taste

If you like chunky applesauce, you don't even have to peel them. For this method, you want to dice them up pretty small (like quarter-sized chunks) because the peels will not get smaller in the cooking process (so if you put in giant slices, you will have huge pieces of peel in there).

If you want a smoother applesauce or just don't want peel, then peel your apples. For this method, you can leave the apple pieces really big (like 1/4 of an apple).

Put the apples, sweetener, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a saucepan. If you're feeling really decadent, add a hunk of butter. Fill with water until it's just about to the top of the apples.

Cook on low heat (simmering) until the apples are soft. Maybe this is about a half-hour? I'm not sure because I'm always doing something else.

When they're good and soft, mash them up with a potato masher (or big fork, or mixer, or blender).

Eat this stuff WARM. Have you ever had warm applesauce? So delicious.

Side note: one of my favorite things to put in applesauce is Cool Whip. Sounds weird, I know, but it is so not weird when you eat it.

| tempeh BLTs |

This was actually my first trip into the world of tempeh. The bakery down the street makes a mean tempeh burger, so I've definitely eaten a lot of tempeh, but never cooked with it before. I found this recipe from Kiwi Magazine and it is definitely tasty. Now, don't get me wrong, it doesn't actually taste like BLTs (at all) but it is really good.



TEMPEH BLTs (from Kiwimag.com)



1/2 CUP SOY SAUCE

1/4 CUP PLUS 1 TABLESPOON SAFFLOWER OIL, DIVIDED
¼ CUP PURE MAPLE SYRUP
¼ CUP APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
2 TABLESPOONS TOMATO PASTE
2 TEASPOONS LIQUID SMOKE
2 CLOVES GARLIC, MINCED
2 8-OUNCE PACKAGES TEMPEH, EACH SLICED INTO 8 STRIPS
FOR THE SANDWICHES

8 SLICES WHOLE WHEAT BREAD

2 LARGE TOMATOES, SLICED
8 LETTUCE LEAVES
½ CUP VEGAN MAYONNAISE

In a large baking dish, add the soy sauce, ¼ cup of the safflower oil, maple syrup, vinegar, tomato paste, liquid smoke, and garlic. Whisk to combine and add the tempeh, tossing to coat. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour, or up to overnight.


Heat a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon safflower oil and the marinated tempeh (you can refrigerate the marinade to reuse for up to a week). Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, flip, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until both sides of the tempeh are browned and crisp. Transfer the tempeh to a plate. 


Assemble the sandwiches: Place four slices of bread on a work surface and spread each with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise. Place four slices of the tempeh on each slice of bread, then top with tomato slices and 2 lettuce leaves. Spread the remaining four slices of bread each with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, then use to top the sandwiches. Slice each sandwich in half and serve, or wrap tightly in foil and pack for lunch.





Sunday, September 18, 2011

| butternut lasagna |

A few weeks ago, my dear facebook friends convinced me that the only way to make a decent mac n' cheese on the stovetop was to start with a roux and proceed through a sort of bechamel situation. I'm really just throwing around terms, here. I don't know what I'm talking about. But I made it up as I went and the mac n' cheese turned out fabuloso. 


Today, a facebook friend was asking for good butternut squash recipes and I was remembering with great fondness a butternut squash lasagna that my MIL has made for us a few times. Not having the recipe, but having a serious craving, I set about to make some version of it myself. Armed with my newfound ability to do the whole roux/bechamel/cheese sauce thing, I rocked it out pretty hard core.


BUTTERNUT LASAGNA
Note: This is vegetarian, but if you're into meat, I'd recommend some chicken.
Note part deux: No, this is not technically a lasagna...but it's so much easier to work with and I really like the consistency that happens with the egg noodles. If you must have a true lasagna, then I'd recommend layering the noodles, sauteed vegs, cheese sauce, and squash puree separately. 



8-10 oz uncooked egg noodles
16 oz of butternut squash, pureed (either microwave or roast and then puree)
1 onion, diced
small bunch of broccolini, chopped finely (or about 2 cups of chopped broccoli)
8 oz. frozen chopped spinach, thawed in the microwave
2 large carrots, grated
1 large or 2 small zucchini, grated
4-5 mushrooms, diced small
1 head of garlic, minced (yes, one HEAD, not one clove)
gobs and gobs of olive oil
a little flour
some whole milk or cream
all your favorite cheeses – I used about a cup of ricotta, a cup of parmesan, and a cup of mozzarella
salt and pepper
dried Italian seasoning

1)    Preaheat your oven to 350 and set your milk on the counter to warm it up.
2)    Boil your noodles very al dente (I cooked mine for just 5 minutes), drain, and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
3)    Prep all your veggies, including the squash puree. If you’re lucky enough to have a grocery store that carries frozen pureed squash, you’re in real luck. We used to, but then they punked out on us.
4)    Put about a tablespoon of olive oil into a saucepan (or, to save pans, just use the stockpot you did your pasta in since it’s now sitting out). Add about two cloves of garlic, minced. Saute the onions until they start to soften, then add the broccolini and sauté a few more minutes, then the grated carrot and zucchini and mushrooms. Throw in a little S&P and the Italian seasoning. Turn off the heat when they start to look cookedish.
5)    In a saucepan, heat about ¼ cup olive oil with the remaining minced garlic. Inhale deeply. When it’s warm, add about 2-3 tablespoons of flour, whisking constantly, until it starts to turn a golden color. Slowly add in your milk, about a cup at a time, stirring constantly. The sauce will start to thicken. Add more flour and more milk until you end up with about 2-3 cups of gravy-consistency goodness. Add some pepper. Add in your parmesan and mozzarella. Stir. Taste it and be happy.
6)    Stir the butternut puree and ricotta into the sautéed veggie mixture. Add in the cheese sauce, reserving about a cup for the top of your lasagna. Add in the cooked egg noodles.
7)    Dump the whole mixture into a big casserole. Top with the remaining cheese sauce and some sprinkles of parmesan. If you add some cracked pepper and Italian seasoning to the top, it’ll be prettier.
8)    Bake for about 30-45 minutes. Let it rest for a few minutes before cutting into it.

| squash time |

A friend of mine has fallen in love with squash and wanted some non-soup, non-just-bake-with-butter-and-brown sugar recipes, so here are a couple of mine. What are yours?



********

This first one I made up a couple of years ago when we had way too much squash in our CSA.


BOWL OF FALL GOODNESS
3 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons butter
½ cup orange juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon corn syrup (or maple)
½ cup raisins
½ cup walnuts, chopped
Cinnamon and nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
Quick cook barley

Combine all ingredients except the black beans and barley in a large casserole. Bake at 350-375 until the sweet potatoes are tender (about 30-45 minutes). Meanwhile, cook up about 4 servings of quick cook barley according to the package directions. Once the potatoes are done, add the can of black beans and stir. Serve the potato mixture over the barley.

********
I think I found this recipe for butternut squash fries from a WW friend. I never wrote it down, but it goes something like this:
BUTTERNUT SQUASH FRIES
1. Get a large butternut squash with a long neck. Cut the neck into long, thing fry-shaped pieces. 
2. Toss the pieces in a mixture of your favorite oil, salt, pepper and any spices you want. I enjoy cumin, but I bet it would also be fun with cinnamon-sugar.
3. Bake just as you would oven fries. Spread thin on a sheet and bake at 450ish until they're crispy, tossing and turning every 15 minutes or so. 

********
I've never made this one, but it sounds amazing. A friend emailed it to me, so I apologize for not knowing what website it's from.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH BREAD PUDDING
Ingredients

·                2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking dish
·                2 medium onions, chopped
·                1 1/2 pounds butternut squash (about half a medium squash)—peeled, seeded, and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
·                kosher salt and black pepper
·                2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
·                6 large eggs
·                2 cups whole milk
·                3/4 pound soft French or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 7 1⁄2 cups)
·                1/2 pound Gruyère, grated (2 cups)
Directions
1. Heat oven to 375° F. Oil a 2 ½- to 3-quart baking dish.
2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the squash, season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and cook, tossing frequently, until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes more. Stir in the sage. Let cool for 10 minutes.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the bread, cheese, and squash mixture and toss to coat.
4. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and bake until golden brown and set, 55 to 60 minutes.
Tip
When peeling a butternut squash, make sure you remove enough layers to get down to the bright orange interior. If you don’t and leave an underlayer of skin, the squash can cook tough instead of tender.


*******
Okay, this is more of summer squash, but still delicious. I got this from friends who got it from an Atkins Cookbook.

SPAGHETTI SQUASH 
  2             pounds  spaghetti squash -- halved lenghtwise
  4          teaspoons  olive oil
  8             ounces  zucchini -- 1/2 dice
     1/4      teaspoon  salt
  1             medium  red onion -- thinly sliced
  4             medium  tomato -- diced
     1/4      teaspoon  pepper
Cook the squash in the microwave. Saute the onions in half the olive oil for 3 minutes. Add zucchini and cook 4-5 minutes until zucchini starts to brown.  Add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Reduce heat, simmer 10 minutes.
Take squash out of shells. Toss with oil. Serve veggies on the squash.
Garnish with parmesan and lemon slices.

*******
Also, my MIL has a recipe that I don't have but could be re-created with some creativity. It's a squash lasagna. Basically, you want to puree your favorite cooked winter squash and then lasagna it between layers of pasta using a white (alfredoish) sauce instead of red. Add in a few other veggies that you enjoy (mushrooms, onions, spinach), but not a not. Keep the squash up front. Use whatever kind of topping cheese you enjoy....mozz, parm, asiago, etc. 

*******
And, two from my archives:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

| a tale of two fruit dips |

This is one of those recipes that sounds totally bizarre and gross when you read it....and yet, when you make it, turns out super tasty. I think I first found it on the WW website or in one of their cookbooks. Every time I slice an apple, I get a craving for it. So delish.

WEIRD-SOUNDING FRUIT DIP
Mix together about 2-3 T of plain nonfat yogurt, 1-2 T of light mayo (yes, that's right, friends), and a dash of cinnamon (again, I'm not kidding you).

Stir well. Add a dash of lemon juice if you'd like.

Dip fruit into it....you know apples, grapes, bananas, etc. This makes a single serving (ish).

**********
And, lest you think I only have weird fruit dip recipes, here's one that actually sounds tasty from the get.

NOT-WEIRD-SOUNDING FRUIT DIP
1 package (8 oz) of strawberry cream cheese
1 small jar of marshmallow fluff

Mix together well. Inhale. Or eat on fruit.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

| pita pizzadillas |

This idea is so incredibly simple, I feel kind of dumb posting it. But, hey, I'm 30 years old and never thought to do it before today, so maybe it will help you out, too. I hereby christen this creation Pita Pizzadilla. I'm sure, much like when I "invented" ice skates as a child by thinking about tying butter knives to the bottom of shoes, someone else has already invented this.

Here's what you do:

  1. Open up a split pita half. Spoon in some marinara or pizza sauce.
  2. Add some chopped veggies/toppings. I used green pepper and black olives, cause that's what I had on hand.
  3. Stuff full with shredded mozzarella cheese (or your favorite pizza cheese - perhaps provolone for those of you from OH-IO?).
  4. Lay flat on a cast iron skillet (or whatever you would normally make a quesadilla in). Put a panina press on top (or don't, if you don't have one). 
  5. Cook until all melty and starting to get crispy on the outside.
  6. Take off heat. Let cool for a couple minutes. Slice into 3-4 triangles.
It tastes like what I imagine a Hot Pocket would take like if Hot Pockets tasted good.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

| potato muffin paradise |

I don't usually do a straight-up link to a recipe, but this is just too good to pass up. Tiny Mushroom-Potato Muffins at Vegelicious. They shall henceforth be rechristened "tiny potato pieces of heaven."


I made these for some friends as an appetizer/bread situation when we were having pasta for dinner. I made a non-vegan version (used real butter and real eggs). They were perfect in every way. Easy to make, fluffy, savory, fancy-looking, delectable.

I think one of my favorite things about them is the idea of what else could be done. The author mentions throwing in sun dried tomatoes or olives. I could also see adding some parmesan cheese. Or roasted red peppers. What else can you think of? I also wonder what might happen if we did them with sweet potatoes instead of regular potatoes. Or a root vegetable mash? I love parsnips. I have a feeling I'm going to be making these quite a few times in the future.

For the record, I made a few that were regular-sized muffins (instead of mini) and they turned out great, too.

These are an awesome "bread substitute" because they're mostly vegetables (the ratio of potatoes to flour is 5 cups potatoes to 3/4 cup flour). An awesome way to get your veggies on.

Just make some. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

| classic midwestern yumminess (a.k.a. Macaroni Salad)

This recipe pretty much sums up my basic cooking process, which is:
1) Get a hankering for something
2) Read 3-5 recipes on the internets
3) Don't follow the recipes


Midwestern Macaroni Salad
(serves 6-8)

12 oz uncooked elbow macaroni
1 red onion, soaked in water for 5 minutes and then drained
1 c celery, diced 
1 red pepper, diced
diced cheese (I like Colby jack)
small can of sliced black olives (drained)
3/4 c frozen peas, thawed
½ can kidney beans, rinsed
1 cup mayo
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
3 T yellow mustard
dill
celery seed
salt and pepper

1)    Boil macaroni. Prep other ingredients. 
2)    Drain macaroni and then throw in a few ice cubes to stop the cooking and get it cold.
3)    Mix the mayo, sugar, vinegar, mustard, and spices in a big bowl. Then add everything else.
4)    Put in the fridge for a few hours before you eat. Yummers.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

| sneaky broccoli cheese rice casserole

So...I had an immense craving for a broccoli-cheese-rice casserole. While I was picking up ingredients at the store I thought, "Hmmm....this would be a lot better if I could figure out some kind of protein to add." Obviously, chicken would be most folks' go-to source for this recipe, but since I'm a vegetarian. So I had to get more creative. The recipe turned out to be awesome (though my husband did say, "You're just making that for YOU to eat, right?").

SNEAKY PROTEIN CHEESY RICE CASSEROLE WITH BROCCOLI
1) Cook about 4 cups of rice. I used jasmine, but use whatever kind you like.
2) While it's cooking, chop up about 3-4 cups of broccoli pretty small and nuke it for 3-4 minutes in your microwave.
3) In a big bowl mix together the following:
- one package of silken tofu, pureed (I used a handheld potato masher to do this)
- one can of condensed broccoli cheese soup
- a cup of milk
- 2-3 tablespoons of melted butter
- salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder
- cheese: I probably used about a cup of grated sharp cheddar and another 1/2 cup of shredded parm
4) Smash up some crackers for a topping.  I used the handheld potato masher for this, too. Who knew those things were so handy?
5) Combine the rice and broccoli with the creamy mixture in the big bowl, then pour into a casserole dish. Top with the crushed crackers. Bake for about 40 minutes at 350. Enjoy your sneaky protein treat.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

| heavenly zucchini pasta |

I saw this article on NPR a few weeks ago about the "glorious pasta of summer." I thought the recipes looked super tasty, so I decided to try the zucchini and basil one first. HOLY SMOKES. This is amazing. The zucchini flavor is so sweet and delicate and the texture is amazing. The sauce ended up tasting like the best alfredo I've had in a restaurant (and I didn't even use the heavy cream, just whole milk).

For once, I didn't mess around with the recipe and it was totally worth it. So good just as written.

We didn't use the pancetta, obviously, but if you're into that kind of thing I'm sure it would be delicious with that, too.

| peanut butter & jelly muffins |

I got this recipe from a friend of a friend on facebook. Man, I love me some facebook. If for no other reason than these fabulous muffins. My toddler and I just shared one (okay, two) hot out of the oven. I'm thinking they'll freeze well, too. You know, if they make it that far before I eat them all.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins
Consider these muffins a breakfast version of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Don't use a natural-style peanut butter in this recipe; it won't have enough sugar or fat to help the muffins rise.
YIELD: 1 dozen (serving size: 1 muffin)

Ingredients

1 cup all-purpose flour (about 4 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (about 3 1/2 ounces)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups fat-free milk
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup egg substitute
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray
1/4 cup strawberry jam
Preparation

Preheat oven to 400°.

Lightly spoon flours into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flours, sugars, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Make a well in center of mixture. Combine milk and next 4 ingredients (through vanilla); add to flour mixture, stirring just until moist.

Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Fill each cup half full with batter. Spoon 1 teaspoon jam into each cup. Spoon remaining batter on top to cover jam. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until muffins spring back when touched lightly in center. Let cool in pan 5 minutes. Remove from pan, and cool on a wire rack.

Friday, July 15, 2011

| move over, hummus |

I got this FABULOUS white bean dip recipe from a friend who somehow manages to mother a baby, a preschooler AND write a great blog about natural living. I've tried a lot of white bean dip recipes before (correction: I've made up a lot of white bean dip "recipes" before) but this is FAR superior to any other. I love the addition of sun dried tomatoes and capers. And I have to say, it's a great reminder of the most critical bean dip rule....add more olive oil than you think is possibly necessary. You won't regret it.

Enjoy the dip....and head on over to Contentedly Crunchy to check out her other great food processor recipes.


WHITE BEAN DIP

Ingredients:
2 pint jars of great northern beans (or 2- 15oz cans), rinsed
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 jalapeño pepper
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. sun-dried tomato (preferably packed in oil, otherwise plunk them in boiling water for a bit)
2Tbsp drained capers
Juice of 1 lime
1tsp hot sauce
1/2 tsp dried oregano (or 2Tbsp fresh)
1/2tsp fresh-ground pepper
salt, if you desire (I don't find it necessary, since the capers are pretty salty, plus that whole low sodium diet thing)

Instructions:
-Preheat the oven to 400°
-In a small oven-safe dish (I usually use a pie pan or a Pyrex container), toss the garlic cloves and the whole jalapeño with 2Tbsp of the olive oil and place in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the jalapeño is soft and light golden brown.
-Slice the jalapeño in half and remove the stem and seeds
-Fit a food processor with the metal blade attachment, add all the ingredients to the bowl of the processor, and puree until smooth.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

| homemade crackers |

I have a toddler who would eat nothing but crackers and cheese, if given the option. So I found myself trying to think of ways to make the crackers more nutritious and did a little googling. I figured there had to be a way to sneak in some veggies. I found this recipe on a blog called Blommi.

I made them and they are awesome. Insanely tasty. My only complaint is that they're pretty time consuming (you know, as compared to just buying a box of crackers). I doubt that I'll be making ALL my own crackers anytime soon, but it's nice to have this as an option. These would be great for entertaining, too. I'm posting the recipe below and then my edits afterwards. Enjoy!

Spinach Crackers Recipe
1/3 cup of frozen loose leaf spinach
1/4 cup oil (I use olive oil)
1/2 tsp kosher salt ( or powdered chicken bouillon, like Goya)
1 1/2 tbs water
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Puree the spinach, oil salt, baking powder and water in a food processor or blender.

Combine the flour and the spinach mixture, either in the food processor, or a mixing bowl.
Knead the dough and form it into a nice ball.

Roll the dough out on a well floured surface. The dough should be rolled out very thin (like pasta dough).

Put the dough on a floured baking sheet.

Use a pastry cutter to cut the dough into squares.(a pizza cutter or knife will do if you don’t
have one)

Prick each cracker 2-3 times with a fork.

Bake for approximately 20 minutes. Thinner crackers and those on the edges will cook faster. Pull them out, and continue cooking those that are still soft. Crackers will crisp a bit more during cooling, but should be somewhat crisp when removed.

Crackers should be put directly on a kitchen towel to cool, to maintain their crispness.

This recipes will make a batch of spinach crackers equal to about 1/2 a regular size box of crackers. Store in an airtight container.

MY EDITS:
- I figured there was no way I was going to all this trouble for a 1/2 a box of crackers, and my package of frozen spinach was more like a cup, so I tripled the recipe.
- With a tripled recipe, I needed 3 total cups of flour. I used 2 cups of white flour, 2/3 c of whole wheat flour and 1/3 cup of wheat bran.
- I added quite a bit of freshly ground black pepper and powdered garlic.
- I used 2/3 canola oil and 1/3 olive oil (just because I'm cheap).
- I did all the fork pricking BEFORE cutting them into squares. Faster that way.
- I wanted to roll mine through my pasta crank to make the sheets, but it wouldn't go through. Just kept getting stuck. If anyone figures out how to solve this problem, please let me know!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

| mashed potato enchiladas |

Once upon a time, some friends had us for dinner and tried out a new vegetarian recipe on us. Now this sounds like the kind of thing that could end in disaster...but, in this situation, it most definitely did NOT. This has turned out to be one of our all-time-favorite recipes for everyday cooking, freezing, and making for friends. In fact, I have a batch sitting in my freezer right now, waiting to go to a friend that's on bedrest. I'll give you the original recipe first, and then some tricks and modifications I've made over the years.

Lest you think mashed potato enchiladas sound really weird, I promise they are not. The mashed potatoes basically just make everything taste cheesier without all the fat of a ton of cheese. And they're very filling!


MASHED POTATO ENCHILADAS

2 small zucchini -- diced
2 cups carrots -- diced
1 cup onion – diced
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup skim milk
1 cup instant potatoes
10 ounces enchilada sauce, red
1/2 cup shredded cheese
4 pieces tortillas

Preheat oven to 350.

Saute carrots, zucchini, and onions in Pam. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Combine water and milk in pan and bring to boil. Add package of potatoes and remove from heat. Let stand 5-10 minutes, then fluff.

Pour some sauce into the bottom of the pan to coat. Dip tortillas in enchilada sauce. Place 1/4 cup potatoes, 1/8 cup cheese, and 1/4 of the veggies in each tortilla and roll. Top with any remaining sauce.

Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes (until heated through).

NOTES:
- This only makes 4 enchiladas. I almost ALWAYS at least double the recipe. After you've cooked them, take any extras and wrap them individually to freeze.
- I often add beans for protein.
- You can use any kind of veggies you want. I have often purchased a "mexican style" corn mix in the freezer section and used it instead of doing all the dicing and sauteeing.
- Instead of putting in potatoes, then cheese, then veggies, I just mix all the cooked veggies, potatoes, and cheese together in a big pot and then ladle that into the enchiladas. It's faster.
- When I feel too lazy to roll enchiladas, I just do this casserole style. I put a layer of tortillas in the bottom of the pan on top of the sauce, then put the potato mix on top, then another layer of dipped tortillas, etc., until I'm done with 8 tortillas. Then I put some cheese and sauce on top and bake.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

| what to do with lavender |

This week in our CSA, we got lavender. I have seen it used in desserts before, but wasn't sure what to do with it. So I made something up and it turned out to be pretty darn tasty.

LAVENDER FRIED RICE
1) Steam jasmine rice with 1 diced carrot, finely minced lavender, and finely minced lemon thyme (or any other complimentary herb).
2) While it's steaming, trim up some sugar snap peas by cutting off the ends and then dicing into 1/2 inch pieces.
3) When the rice is done cooking, stir fry the snap peas and rice in some oil in a wok. Add in a can (about about 1 pound cooked) chickpeas. Salt and pepper. Finish with a fair amount of butter for added deliciousness.

We really enjoyed this quick and easy meal. Not sure when we'll get our hands on lavender again, but I know what we'll be doing with it when we do!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

| i have created hockey pucks |

So....our local food co-op sells this amazing oat cakes that are made locally. I call them hockey pucks, because that's what they look like. They have always been one of my favorite treats. Kind of dry (but in a good way) and chewy. Like a granola bar, only much better.

I finally tried to make them myself, and it worked out pretty well. I think I'll definitely make another batch in the future.

HOCKEY PUCKS
2 cups hot water
1-2 cups raisins and craisins
3 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup walnuts (finely chopped)
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
dash of vanilla

Put the hot water in a bowl and soak the raisins/craisins. Mix together the oats, flour, nuts, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla (I recommend putting the vanilla in the butter to mix it up more easily). Stir well. Pull the soaked raisins/craisins out of the water (don't drain it though - you need the water). Add about 1 to 1 1/2 cups of the water to the oat mixture and stir. You want it to be pretty sticky, but not liquidy.

Put about 1/2 a muffin-tin-full of mixture into each cup of a muffin tin. Press down firmly. Bake at 325 for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes, then remove and cool the rest of the way. Makes about 15 hockey pucks.

Friday, April 22, 2011

| patty goodness |

These are AMAZING! I found this recipe in Kiwi Magazine. They are so tasty. Very flavorful, easy. Our toddler loved them, too. I don't even have anything else to say about them except this: you need to make them.

Chickpea Patties
15 oz chickpeas (drained, if canned)
1 medium onion
1 T poultry seasoning
2 eggs
1 ½ c stuffing mix
1 large carrot, grated
1 ½ c bread crumbs

Process chickpeas, onion, seasoning, and eggs in a food processor for several minutes. Stir in stuffing mix and carrot. Cover and refrigerate for several hours (or freeze for up to 3 months). Form patties (about ¼ cup per patty), coat with bread crumbs, then pay fry for 2-3 minutes per side. Makes about 16 patties (serves 4).

Saturday, April 16, 2011

| brownie cake |

We're having company for dinner tonight. I have something to admit: although I am a kick-ass cook, I am a terrible baker. So I pretty much always make the same thing for dessert when people come over. Luckily for me, it's an awesome dessert. I stole it from my friend Lynn and I think she stole it from her daughter who may have stolen it from a Betty Crocker cookbook. Regardless, this is the ONE dessert recipe you need. Especially if you are baking-impaired like me.




Lynn's Chocolate Brownie Cake

No mixer needed! Just stir with a spoon or wisk!
1 ½ C sugar
¾ C flour
1 ½ sticks (3/4 C) margarine or butter, melted
½ C cocoa
1 ½ t vanilla
¼ t salt
3 eggs
(add a dash of cinnamon, too)

Bake 40 -45 minutes at 350. Bake in a small pan. Makes 8 servings. That's correct - there is no baking powder nor soda. You want to bake this so it's hot out of the oven at dessert time. And it's great with vanilla ice cream on top.