Monday, May 30, 2011

Strawberry Mint Muffins

It's time for a muffin recipe! After a wonderful week with Matt's (and my) friend, Rob, visiting from Kansas, we thought it would be fun if the guys had a golf weekend and I went to Houston to help my parents clean out part of my grandmother's house.
It was a great weekend, including Dad surprising us with tix to the Astros game on Saturday! (Thanks, Dad!!) I ate so well this weekend! But, after rich foods at restaurants and special meals with friends and family, I was ready for a homemade ______. (fill in the blank, I wasn't sure)
This overgrowing mint plant was a hint. (Yes, I have a Topsy Turvy, and it's wonderful...don't judge!)

These strawberry mint muffins are slightly sweet (not too much) and have some healthy things in them, and they're SUPER EASY! The mint flavor is very subtle, but you can add 1/2 teaspoon of mint extract if you'd like more.


*makes 24 mini muffins*
1 cup Bisquick
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup milk + a splash
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 egg
5 mint leaves, chopped
1 cup strawberries, chopped (about 7 berries)

TOPPING: (optional)
2 tablespoons margarine/butter 
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
3 tablespoons brown sugar

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Stir with large spoon until all ingredients are blended. Pour batter into muffin cups.

If you desire to add the topping, mix the 3 ingredients in a separate bowl until all oats are moistened. Using your hands, form quarter coin-sized bits and place on each muffin cup in the pan. 

Then, bake at 350 for 12 minutes. 

With and without topping
Make these when you need to take something to work for the group, to sub as a dessert or freeze and pull out when you need a little breakfast on the go. If you freeze, heat up for 25 secs in the microwave. 
Happy Memorial Day!
I am consistently amazed by the strength and sacrifice of those in the military and their families. A huge thank you to all, including my 7 great uncles who served in World War II.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Clove Cookies

Do you ever base your next meal on the clearance items at the grocery store?

Now, before you get images of green bacon or fruit fly-infested peaches, come back to me and think of something spice-y. I found this on the end of an aisle at our neighborhood grocery store:
It retailed for $7, and my cheap self got it for $1. And they're cloves...the smell of Christmas filled our house five months ago, and I miss it!

A little background on cloves...
Cloves are derived from Syzygium aromaticum, the hand-picked and dried buds from the Myrtle family of pink and red flowering trees. The plant is cultivated in Madagascar, Tanzania and Brazil, among other places. (Oh, to be a little clove on the beach...) Clove oil is used to treat toothaches, and clove buds are said to be great moth repellents. The word clove is derived from "clou," the French word for nail. Parents on the Molucca Islands, where cloves were first grown, planted a clove tree every time a new child was born. It is said that this spice was Aphrodite's, the goddess of love's, favorite scent for defining sensuality. The plant and spice are tracked as top-selling spices in Europe all the way back to the eighth century. Even our ketchup and Worcestershire sauce would not taste the same without the clove's contribution. This spice has so much history! (from the Journal of Food & Nutrition)

So, clove cookies sounded like a good idea...
And they were, sorta. I used brown rice flour for the first time. If you hold a pinch of the flour in your hand, it is soft, finely textured, and seems a lot like pastry flour. Perfect for cookies, right?

Wrong! It could've been me, that's for sure, but the baked texture of this cookie was way too gritty for my liking. I think this flour should be used for crusts...yes, it would've been a perfect base for a pizza crust. But this recipe was still really good! I'd just make it this way...the better way...

Clove Cookies
1 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose, wheat pastry flour, etc.)
1 t. organic ground cloves
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. baking soda
Dash of salt
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 "egg" (flax egg worked well)
2 TB brown sugar 
1 TB agave nectar (optional, for extra sweetness)
2 TB agave nectar or honey (for topping at the end)
In a medium bowl, mix dry ingredients together. Add wet ingredients to dry. Blend together until completely moistened; dough will be sticky, but shouldn't fall apart.

On a flat surface, roll dough out into a rectangle 1/8--1/4 inch thick, rolling between 2 sheets of parchment or wax paper to prevent sticking. Remove top sheet of paper. Carefully slice cookies into two-inch squares or shapes with small/medium cookie cutters.

Bake at 350 for 9 minutes. Cookies will rise slightly and give a bit at the touch. While cookies are out of the oven and still warm, top with a bit of honey or agave nectar. Serve with a cup of tea or vanilla ice cream. Yum!
Christmas smells on a warm, rainy, humid May day...ahh, the comfort. As you enjoy these treats, reflect on the great blessings in your life and think of ways that you can help your neighbors who might need a friend today. The tornado-stricken places are certainly on my mind right now. We could all use a little cookie, some warm tea, and the little comforts of home. Happy night.



Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Oh, This Chicken

I have a (really fun) [but] (slightly annoying sometimes) habit of changing any recipe I come across to make it my own.
No, I'm no mad scientist (okay, maybe a little mad) or even a culinary, educated kook. So, sometimes, I follow a recipe to a tee and do not change/alter/edit/omit/add ANYTHING from it. But it's gotta be a pretty awesome recipe...pretty perfect...

Giada's Sweet and Spicy Chicken Drumettes
This slightly sweet and tangy chicken is so delicious, I instantly liked the Giada. (Sure, I want to be jealous of her--sweet, beautiful, talented in the kitchen, Italian--but why? Wouldn't it be more fun to meet her for lunch instead? her house, of course...where she does all of the cooking and I watch and learn.) This chicken is so delicious and, after making it 5+ times, I have yet to screw it up. (Victory!) I've added my comments in (parenthesis) if you like to break the rules a little.  ;-)

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Drumettes 
Giada's recipe
  • 3 pounds chicken drumettes (or drumsticks)
  • 3/4 cup pineapple juice (or orange juice)
  • 1/3 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup sweet Marsala wine (or whatever red is already open)
  • 1/4 packed cup light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil (don't forget makes the chicken! find it next to the olive oil at the store)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (or 3)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground arrowroot powder or 1 tablespoon cornstarch (or 1 TB flour)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves


step one: In a gallon ziploc bag, combine juice, soy sauce, wine, brown sugar, sesame oil, garlic, chili powder, and red pepper flakes until the sugar is dissolved. (Do this by sealing the bag and gently mixing with hands.) Using tongs or hands, put the chicken drumettes in the bag. Remove as much air as you can from the bag, seal it, and stick it in the fridge for 2+ hours to marinade.

step two: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil (or parchment paper) and spray with non-stick spray.

step three: After 2 hours (or even overnight), take the chicken out of the fridge. Using tongs, place each piece on the baking sheet. Do NOT throw away the marinade! Season the chicken with sea salt and bake until the skin is brown and caramelized, between 25--35 minutes. (Keep an eye on it.)
Marinated chicken, ready to cook
Right out of the oven...don't let the "burnt look" alarm's tasty!

step four: While the chicken is baking, pour the marinade into a saucepan. Whisk in the arrowroot or cornstarch and bring to a boil over medium heat (in order to kill bacteria). Reduce the heat to a low boil and cook until thick, about 5 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Once the chicken is cooked, arrange on a platter or in a large serving bowl. Take a pastry brush and brush the marinade onto the chicken, and sprinkle with the chopped cilantro.

Eat. Be merry. One of these days I'll try one of her pasta dishes...
but for now, this one's my favorite.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cranberry Coconut Applesauce

No, I'm no hippie, but I just made my own applesauce for the first time. I saw Rachael Ray do it to top on pork, so I made my own variety.

Let me tell you, I made this in 30 minutes flat, including the time that it took to run upstairs and shower and dress before work. I then stuck it in the freezer for 10 minutes and packed it in my "lunch" which fell at 3pm that day. It's good cold or hot.
Unsweetened applesauce is a staple in my diet. Here's how I eat it the most, in ways that keep me from feeling like a 5 year old:

A spread on crispy, warm toast
Mixed with plain hot oatmeal for fruity sweetness
Used for "moisture" in much of my baking (oil sub, butter sub, sugar sub)
Just plain in a bowl with a bunch of cinnamon and a bit of nutmeg
Heated with craisins mixed in and crunchy granola on top
Topped on chicken

This recipe is for chunky applesauce, but you can put it in a food processor to reach your desired consistency.

Cranberry Coconut Applesauce
4 apples, 2 green and 2 red
1 cup cranberry juice
1/4 cup shredded coconut (if unsweetened, add the brown sugar)
1/2 t. cinnamon

Dash of ground nutmeg
1 TB brown sugar (optional)
2 TB chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)

one: Core and slice apples into bite-sized chunks. Stir all ingredients in a medium-large pot and bring to a boil.

 two: Cover and turn heat down to medium low for 25 minutes, until sauce is thickened and apples are soft and mushy. Using back of wooden spoon, smush apples a bit to create a thicker sauce.
three: Eat hot or cold.

Eat alone, as a side with dinner, or on top of a salty pork or chicken entree.
In one bite, you taste the soft apple, the crunchy coconut and the tart cranberry juice cooked in.

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Double Chocolate Cookies

No matter the beautiful display and detail, decadence, even marinade juice oozing out of the tastiest bite in my mouth of the best food of the moment, heaven on a plate, I always go back to this simple comfort food:  
the chocolate chip cookie.
I have changed the way I bake, so there is minimal white flour and white sugar used. However, I 
tried to add the *bleached yet comforting* 
ingredients [whiteflour/sugar] and the 
*healthy yet heavy* [wheatflour/
agavesyrup] ingredients for 
something chocolatey, 
 melty, and decadent.
And here is the

Double Chocolate Cookies
*makes 24 bits of heaven*
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 TB cocoa powder
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/8 t. salt
1/4 t. cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 TB water
3 TB softened margarine/butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips

one: Combine dry ingredients in large bowl (minus the chocolate chips).
two: Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients until completely moist and smooth. Dough is the consistency of a thick pudding (and delicious raw!). If dough is still too dry (not pudding yet), add an extra tablespoon of applesauce. Add chocolate chips last.
three: Bake at 375 for 12 minutes. Cookies will be soft, gooey and fabulous.
 Not only are these cookies tasty, but they are egg free and oil free. This cuts down fat, cholesterol.  
The applesauce adds a natural sweetness, cutting down on adding lots of sugar. 
The small amount of margarine/butter (only 3 TB) still gives creaminess that cookies should have, but cuts down on fat, sodium and cholesterol.

Hummus, 3 Ways

Hummus is an amazing food. Of course, it's middle-eastern based but is found in multiple countries and types of cuisine. "Hummus" is the Arabic word for chickpeas and also this chickpeas-based dip. Hummus can be traced back thousands of years. Could the apostle Paul have eaten it on one of his tours in what is now Greece?  Perhaps. I picture gorgeous cliff views of ocean and amazing sunsets. Nowadays, you can order hummus at a Mediterranean restaurant, even buy a number of varieties at the grocery store. But why, when you can make it fresh in 10 minutes?
Traditional Hummus
*Adapted from Ina Garten's recipe and OhSheGlows*

1 can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and 2 TB of liquid reserved (or 2 cups cooked)
1/4 cup tahini (roasted sesame seed paste)
Juice of 2 lemons + grated rind of 1 lemon
3 garlic cloves
6-10 drops Tabasco or 2 TB your favorite salsa
1 t. sea salt + more to taste

Directions: Using food processor, mix all ingredients together until desired consistency. (I prefer creamy.) Serve in a dip bowl, top with 1/8 teaspoon of smoked paprika and drizzle with olive oil. Done.

You can purchase tahini at most grocery stores, but you might have to ask where it is. (Sometimes in the "International foods" section, sometimes near the peanut butter, sometimes in the "Healthy foods" section.) This "Traditional Hummus"recipe is great! However, to mix it up, I like some variety. Have you noticed my love for things in THREE's? This hummus is no exception.

Using this same base recipe, here's how you can vary it:

Hummus with pine nuts
Toast 3 TB pine nuts in toaster oven using a foil-lined tray. Be sure and sprinkle the nuts with sea salt if they are unsalted. After toasting, combine 2 TB of nuts in food processor. Top hummus with remaining pine nuts for garnish and drizzle olive oil, too.
Roasted red pepper hummus
Roasted red pepper hummus
While traditional recipe is still in the food processor, add 1/3 cup of roasted red peppers. Top with paprika and olive oil. The hummus will have a tint of red.
4-Pepper Hummus
Use any four peppers you like, but try these: 
1 TB roasted red pepper
1 t. fresh jalapeno (or 1 TB chipotle)
1 t. serrano pepper
2 TB green bell pepper
You can use a teaspoon or tablespoon, depending on how spicy you'd like it.
Italiano Hummus 
Add the following into the food processor, along with the traditional recipe:
1 (extra) garlic clove
2 TB fresh basil
1 t. fresh rosemary
Dash of salt and pepper
Spinach and garlic hummus
1 (extra) garlic clove
1/2 cup cooked, drained spinach or 2 cups raw spinach
Dash of salt and pepper 
"Traditional" hummus, with a little lemon and smoked paprika on top
As a dip
As a sandwich spread
As a "sauce" on the side of grilled chicken, pork, beef

Pita bread
Pita chips, multiple varieties
Bell pepper strips (red, yellow, green, orange)
Carrots (baby, ripple chips)
Broccoli and cauliflower florets
Squash, zucchini or cucumber strips or rounds
Tortilla chips

A Trio of Hummus, packed for a picnic
Happy Sunday, friends!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spinach Orzo Salad

This idea was absolutely not mine. In the days of working in a deli (how humbling), we had to make this every morning. However, the orzo was cooked and everything was prepackaged, ick. A seemingly healthy salad, this deli poured creamy dressing over the greens to dump on unnecessary salt, calories and fat. I will admit, however, that it was delicious but a guilty pleasure because of the dressing.
As you know, we were having a picnic, and I thought this was a perfect opportunity to "healthitize" this tasty salad.

Spinach Orzo Salad
*serves 6 as a side*
3 cups of spinach leaves
1/2 cup whole wheat orzo
1 1/2 cup water
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, chopped into bits
1/4 cup feta cheese sprinkles (I used Italian herb flavored)
1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
2 TB green onions/chives
3 TB Italian dressing or your favorite vinaigrette (+ more to taste)

Boil water and cook orzo as you would rice. (Once water comes to a rolling boil, drop in orzo, cover pot, and lower heat to medium-low. Let simmer for 15 minutes.) Orzo is slightly quicker in cooking time than rice.

Once orzo is cooked, drain and leave in colander to cool. In the meantime, wash and pat dry spinach leaves and put in large bowl. Add toppings and toss. When slicing the roasted red pepper, be sure and pat dry with a paper towel.

Once orzo is cool, use a fork to separate the pieces from sticking together. Add orzo to spinach mixture and toss, adding dressing/vinaigrette as you toss. The dressing should be light and not soupy, which quickly wilts the spinach.
Chill for 1 hour and enjoy! 
This salad would be a great lunch with a grilled chicken or turkey breast on top.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Healthy Potato Salad

When you grow up in Texas, you end up eating a lot of barbecue. Included in the big food category of BARBECUE is sauce, green beans with bacon, baked beans and *of course* potato salad.
I love potato salad, a little bit of mustard in it, with chopped celery, red pepper, relish, the whole bit.

But I find myself feeling guilty about the enormous fat content and amount of mayo, so I end up eating my favorite part of potato salad--the potato--and avoiding the creamy sauce it sits in! Well, I thought it was time to hold back on the mayo (and picnic tummyaches from potato salad left out of the fridge too long) and make the potato the star of the show, once again.

4-Ingredient Potato Salad
*6  1/2-cup servings
5 medium-sized red potatoes (2 pounds)
4 TB yellow mustard
2 TB honey
1 t. dried parsley

ONE: Dice (don't peel) potatoes into small pieces. Boil in a large pot of water until soft, but not falling apart.

TWO: Drain potatoes in a colander and run over cool water for a few minutes. Let sit out for 1 hour or refrigerate for 30 minutes, until cool.

THREE: In a large bowl, whisk mustard, honey and parsley together. Using a small spoon, carefully coat potatoes with sauce. Serve immediately (room temp salad) or refrigerate for at least an hour to chill.

Nutrition facts for this healthier version 
 The finished product, with only 4 ingredients. Yum!