Friday, December 27, 2013

Elegant Quiche Cups

It was a calm, peaceful Christmas day at our house. Weird, right? Since I work at a church, this is one of the busiest times of year. Honestly, I didn't realize how tired I'd be by the time December 25th rolled around. (Can you relate?? Hee) I needed the calm. And, while I absolutely loved just hanging out with Matt & Sam the dog all day in the stillness, I think I just want this kind of Christmas once in our lives. :)  So, along with our nontraditional Christmas came a nontraditional Christmas dinner...sort of.

Quiche can be dated back to the 1300s, a German-influenced French pastry, and the French word "quiche" comes from the German "kuchen," meaning cake. Something like that. What I'm trying to say is this is old and traditional and seemed like the perfect Christmas dish in keeping it simple and beautiful. (Simple is a challenge for me! Having 8.9 side dishes is my minimum for a merry day.)

So this quiche is 1)gluten free and 2)gluten filled. It's great for a dinner for a crowd when you aren't sure how many are coming. And these cups reheat really well! How? Keep reading.......

Elegant Quiche Cups
When you need an elegant, easy, semi-quick dinner, go to a quiche cup. You can modify the ingredients based on what you have in the fridge, and you can customize each cup for picky particular eaters that you are cooking for. The crust is separate from the quiche, so a soggy, reheated crust is a thing of the past! Plus, with an option of gluten-free or gluten-filled, it's a dish for all! Fill with the same amount of veggies as this recipe if you don't want a super egg-y quiche, or add more eggs and less veggies for those who adore the incredible edible egg.

Makes 6 BIG quiche cups (using a 6-cup LARGE muffin pan, or makes 9 standard-size muffin cups)

Quiche Cups:
8 large eggs
2 TB flour (use brown rice or other gluten-free flour to keep it GF)
1 TB olive oil
1/3 chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1/2 of a small onion)
1 zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups fresh spinach
5 slices cooked turkey bacon (or bacon of your choice), chopped
1/2 cup of chopped mushrooms
Seasonings: garlic powder, seasoning salt, 21 Seasonings Salute (Trader Joe's), lemon juice, Chipotle Tabasco --Season with any or all of these, to taste!

Snowflake Crust:
1 1/3 all purpose flour (alter with gluten free flours according to flour packaging)
1 stick unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2-3 tablespoons cold water

Fresh spinach makes ALL the difference in this dish.
Step One: In a large saute pan, saute olive oil, bell pepper, onion and zucchini for 2 minutes. Next, add garlic, spinach, and 2 TB water and let cook until spinach is slightly wilted. (Spinach will cook more in the oven.) Ste pan aside to cool a bit.


Snowflakes in dough form
Step Two: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Now let's make the crust: In a food processor (or with a hand mixer in a bowl), beat the butter, flour, salt and sugar on medium-high. Add the water a bit at a time, until the consistency of the dough is crumbly and the butter is dispersed throughout. Roll the dough out onto a FLOURED surface and, using a large snowflace cookie cutter, cut out 6 snowflakes. You can use any large festive cookie cutter (mine is about 5 inches in diameter). Warning: this is a lazy woman's pate brisee recipe, so it will not be the smoothest pie dough you've ever worked with! Set your snowflakes on a cookie sheet and set aside.

Cups about to go in the oven!
Step Three: Let's assemble our quiche. In a large bowl, add the 8 cracked eggs and whisk. Add the flour and whisk a little more. Fold in the sauteed spinach/veggies mixture, turkey bacon and spices and stir. Spray the muffin pan with nonstick spray, and spoon out the egg mixture. (I used a 1/3 cup measuring cup to evenly distribute the egg mixture.) To make it pretty, sprinkle with chopped chives and top with mushrooms before putting in the oven.

Step Four: Put the muffin pan AND the snowflakes into the oven (muffin pan on the bottom rack, the snowflakes on the top rack), baking for 30 minutes. Remove both pans from the oven. Check on the snowflakes after those 30 minutes and, if they're lightly brown and a bit crisp, remove from the oven to cool. Otherwise, bake for a few more minutes. For the quiche cups, top with cheese and bake for 10 more minutes. The cups should be solid and the cheese melted.

Step Five: Carefully remove the quiche cups from the pan using 2 teaspoons (my secret for removing most muffins/cupcakes from pans). Using the spoon-side down, circle around the cup to loosen the quiche. Then, life with the 2 spoons on opposite sides. Top with a golden snowflake and serve with a salad or fruit on the side! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

There you have it--healthy, elegant, simple. Enjoy.

Happy holiday-ing!

Cinnamon Candy Apples

Who doesn't love a nice caramel apple sometimes?
Halloween has come and gone, but the apples are still plentiful. And Christmas season is coming to an end (tell that to every retailer, heh), but does cinnamon ever really go out of season? I think not.

Granted, the three most used words on this blog are "easy," "banana," and one guessed it...CINNAMON. Ah, cinnamon. I find any excuse to sneak it into a recipe. Mostly in breakfast dishes and baked goods, but sometimes an entree or hearty sauce, too! And why not just out there, in plain sight, coating an apple?

Cinnamon Candy Apples
Using cinnamon hard candies makes this treat a snap to make, plus the cinnamon soaks into the top layer of the apple flesh. Yum.
You'll need:
Parchment paper or a silicone baking liner
4 apples
4 skewers or Popsicle sticks
1 1/3 cup cinnamon hard candies (unwrapped!)
2 TB light corn syrup
Cooking spray

Prep: Lay out a sheet of parchment paper sprayed with nonstick spray or a baking liner on the counter. Carefully insert a skewer or popsicle stick into each apple. 

Step 1: Spray a small pot with cooking spray and toss in the cinnamon hard candies. Stir in the light corn syrup.

Step 2: Heat over low-medium heat until mixture is bubbly and the candies are melted.

Step 3: Quickly dip each apple into the cinnamon mixture to coat. Use a spoon to coat each apple entirely. Immediately place the apples on the wax paper and let cool for 30 minutes. The coating will turn back to its hard candy form...take care not to break a tooth while devouring the spices-y awesomity!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ruby Red Smoothie

Hello, friends! Ready for a sweet-tart smoothie? Need some energy?

Ruby Red Smoothie
1/2 ruby red grapefruit
3 celery sticks
1 apple, cored
1 banana
Handful of ice cubes

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend! Drink. Be energized.

Happy Monday!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Jump-start Jollity

You've eaten all of the turkey (and ham). The potatoes, the dressing, the pie, and even that pesky green bean casserole. It was good for a while, but geeze!, we're over it. Let's move on. Our brains and wallets and stomachs need a jump-start. Back to a healthy life. This dish is easy, quick, and uses stuff you already have at home.

Jump-start Jollity

If you need a jump-start from holiday frivolity and overinduging, try this! If you like it a lot, make it a regular on your grocery list. Feel full, not bloated. Be nourished and energized.
1 cup of dried quinoa (cook as directed on package)
4 cups of raw veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, bell peppers, greens, carrots, etc.)
2/3 cup water
1/4 olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
5 garlic cloves, chopped
Spices: (your choice of a few dashes of) red pepper flakes, rosemary, basil, sage, salt, pepper

 Step one: Start cooking the quinoa. Meanwhile, chop the raw veggies. I sliced my squashes and peppers into bite-size/rounds, but the broccoli were bigger chunks (because they cook faster, and I don't want overcooked broccoli).

Step two: In a large skillet/wok on medium heat, add the water and create steam. Drop in the 4 cups of veggies, add the lid, and let steam for 5-7 minutes, or until almost fully cooked. Remove from heat and transfer veggies (do not drain) to a casserole dish or large heat-safe bowl. Set aside.

Step three: In the same skillet/wok, add the olive oil and heat. Add the onions and saute for 1 minute, then add the garlic. Salt and pepper. Stir with spoon until mixture is toasted and lightly brown on the edges. Add the spices you'd like at let 'toast' in the olive oil mixture for 1 minute. 

Step four: Add the veggies (and water they're in) back in to the skillet and stir veggies into the sauce. Add the cooked quinoa and stir, adding additional spices if needed. Salt and pepper.

Serve piping hot. So healthy, so delicious!


Happy eating! Laurel

Monday, December 2, 2013

Day 16: The Ultimate Compromise Pie

Ever watch The Chew, that show?

I'm not often home when it's on, but I caught an episode a couple of weeks and HAD to make this pie for Thanksgiving. You see, I'm not the biggest pie nerd. I really like to eat pie but, on my list of 25 top items to bake, pie might not make it. It's nothing against pie, I just like other things, too. So, when I saw this awesome recipe by Carla Hall and realized how awesome it was, I had to make it. I got excited about pie!

My mom helped me make this because I am pie dough-illiterate. My dough tastes pretty good, but it's not pretty. I'll work on that.

The Ultimate Compromise (Pumpkin Pecan) Pie

Lightly adapted from Carla Hall from The Chew

For the family that can't agree on pumpkin OR pecan pie. For the people who like pecans but can't stand the super-sugary sweetness of the pecan pie filling. For those who like to put pumpkin in everything they eat between the months of September and December. This pie is for you.

Crust Ingredients:
  • 1 tablespoon Sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Table Salt
  • 1/3 cup Water
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold Unsalted Butter (cut into 1/2-inch dice)
  • 2 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour (plus more for rolling)
Crust Directions:
  • In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar and salt in the water.  Refrigerate until very cold, about 30 minutes. During that time, refrigerate your butter, flour, mixer bowl, and paddle, too. (optional)
  • In the chilled bowl, combine the cold butter and flour.  With your hands, toss the butter in the flour until each cube is lightly coated.
  • With the chilled paddle, beat the flour-butter mixture on low speed to just break up the butter, about 60 seconds.  Add the water mixture all at once and raise the speed to medium-low.  Beat just until the dough comes together in big chunks, then turn off the mixer. 
  • Divide the chunks of dough in half and very gently pat each group into a round 1-inch-thick disk.  Wrap each tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour, before rolling.  You can refrigerate the disks for up to 1 day or freeze for up to 3 months. 

Pie Ingredients:
  • 1 recipe for Carla's Perfect Pie Crust
  • 2 tablespoons Butter (softened)
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 3 Eggs (lightly beaten)
  • 1 tablespoon White Vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 cup Dark Corn Syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups Pecans (chopped)
  • 1/3 cup Pumpkin Puree
  • 1/4 cup Cinnamon Sugar (for garnish & topping) 
  • Whipped Cream (for garnish)

Pie Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out pie dough to 1/8 inch thickness and line a 9 inch pie plate, allowing excess to drape over edge. Fold over edges and crimp, then trim any remaining excess. Line the pan with parchment and pour in baking beans or weights (or use a round, flat oven-safe bowl for pressure, like Corningware). Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until crust is light golden.
  • Meanwhile, cream 1 TB butter and sugar, then add beaten eggs, vinegar, salt, vanilla and corn syrup. Stir in 1 cup of the pecans and all of the pumpkin puree.
  • Pour filling into prepared pie crust. Place pie on baking sheet. Bake on center rack of oven for 50 minutes or until set; after 40 minutes, toss the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped pecans in cinnamon sugar and remaining 1 TB butter, melted. Top the pie with the pecans and continue baking.  Cool completely on wire rack. Serve with a garnish of whipped cream and remaining cinnamon sugar. *Note:  If crust is browning before center is cooked, tent edges of pie with foil and continue baking.
 There you have it, the ULTIMATE COMPROMISE. It's delicious, and it's even better the next day. Thanks, Carla, thanks.

Happy compromising!

Day 15: Cinnamon Pecans and Almonds

These cannot be more simple...cinnamon pecans and almonds.

They're a fun snack but, since I have trouble with self-control (and eating the entire bowl in one sitting), I like to sprinkle them on salads or oatmeal. Let's make them.

Cinnamon Pecans and Almonds
Recipe from George Stella
4-6 snack-size servings
2 TB butter
1 1/2 cups nuts (I mixed pecan halves and slivered almonds)
1/4 cup sugar (your favorite kind)
1 teaspoon cinnamon

In a saucepan on medium heat, melt the butter. Add the rest of the ingredients and saute for 3 minutes, or until slightly crispy. Remove from the heat and store in a glass bowl. Let cool and enjoy.

Happy snacking!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Day 14: Holidays and Apple Cinnamon Cheeseballs

Mom, Dad, Matt, and Me on Thanksgiving
Too much turkey.
 Hello! How was your Thanksgiving? Did you celebrate?

While we have this rich U.S. history of coming together, sometimes the underlying history of Thanksgiving is hard to swallow (hierarchy, etc.). So I find more meaning in celebrating Thanksgiving by giving thanks for the amazing people, places and things that I'm able to come into contact with in my life. This year, I'm looking at the great ribbon that connects Thanksgiving themes to Valentine's Day. Puzzled? On Valentine's Day, we traditionally show love for others in a special way. At Thanksgiving, we can give thanks for all of those who have brought joy and love to us throughout the entire year. It's about appreciating life, seeing the joy in little things and unlikely situations and giving thanks to those who bring that joy. I thank God for people and creatures who make life just worth it. And Thanksgiving is also a special reminder for me that food brings people together. Big groups or small gatherings, food is this sacred instrument that allows us to give and receive love in a spicy curry, juicy burger, in bright red salsa, freshly baked apple pie. Beautiful.

Drive-through lights at the Portland Raceway...8 Maids a Milking--for our awesome cheeseball
Now let's talk about food. My parents visited, we have friends stopping by here and there both locals and out of towners (Pearl Jam NW leg of their tour), and we have more family coming in a few weeks. There has been more food in this house than I can devour. So let's talk about it.

Cheeseballs. That word can either make someone really excited or really grossed out. I remember seeing those packaged hunks of dairy disguised by sliced almonds at holiday parties as a kid, and I never liked them. But the cheese cubes were always appreciated. My husband likes anything cheese-related (who doesn't?), so I try to incorporate it here and there. I like cheese, but not TOO MUCH creamy, rich gloppy stuff. In saying that, I did sell gourmet cheeses at a deli in grad school. I learned a lot and ate a lot of cheese. My cholesterol went up. When I quit that job, my cholesterol was at a healthy level. Funny. So I like to eat little bits of cheese that pack a lot of flavor. One plus to that job:  I learned to make cheeseballs that were actually quite tasty.

Fresh ingredients. Great recipes. 10 minutes. That's all it took. So I'll share one of those secret recipes with you. Granted, I made 20-30 cheeseballs at a time, so I've scaled back the restaurant-size recipe, tested it, simplified it, and here it is for you.

Apple Cinnamon Cheeseball

This refreshing take on the cheeseball is simple, delicious and not-too-heavy. Serve with water crackers, butter crackers or even on bagels for a delicious, cheesy appetizer. Leftovers from your party? Spoon 1 tablespoon into your hot oatmeal for a creamy, warm cinnamony surprise.

8 oz lowfat cream cheese, softened (set on counter for 45 minutes)
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup dried apples, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Step one: Combine cheeses, apples, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend until incorporated all together. Roll into a ball the size of a baseball.
Step two: Roll into the chopped pecans, coating all sizes. Store the cheeseball on a dish, covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

The cheeseball can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days and, if you want to have an appetizer on hand at all times, actually freezes pretty well, wrapped in plastic wrap and foil (thaw in the fridge).

How to make dried apples-the quick way:
Step one: Slice 2 apples very thinly (use knife or mandoline). Preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Step two: On a baking sheet or rack, lay apple slices as a single layer. Let bake for 2-3 hours, flipping once an hour. The more hot air touches the apple surfaces, the better (so I use a cooling rack).
Step three: When they're ready, they'll be dry yet soft and 'bendy.' Store them in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. 
A thought: If you slice your pecan halves across the middle, you get these awesome little pieces that look like "M"s or the Batman symbol.

Happy post-Thanksgiving. Don't overshop but do enjoy the lights, food, festivities and people/animals around you. Happy, happy weekend. :)


Friday, November 22, 2013

Thanksgiving Inspiration

People with food blogs have different ways to find inspiration. For me, I love to look through old recipe books. My grandmother clipped out recipes from newspapers, magazines, and had hundreds of handwritten recipes that either she created or copied from a friend or family member's wonderful dish. I cherish each and every one of those little slips of paper, and it's so fun to see her notes (always in beautiful penmanship) on how to alter a recipe or her comments on a perfect dish. That's my first go-to.

And, of course, I thank the Lord daily for this wonderful invention of the Internet(s). :) Never has it been easier for me to find an authentic Southern Italian pasta or an Ugandan peanut sauce until now. I am so thankful for a huge community of food bloggers who give their time, talent and creativity to share with others. It really is an amazing, open-minded network of people!

Each blogger is different but, for me, I'm not in a place to spend 4 hours a day on my blog. (There was a time when I did have that kind of time...oh, bliss.) But I do what I can, and I hope you like what you see. For every dish I blog about, there are probably 6 others that didn't make the blog. It's not that even my BEST dishes are blogged about, sometimes I just like to share when I have time and energy to share it! (But I do try to give you the best, trust me.) Aside from the 6 dishes you don't see, I might look at 20 different recipes of pumpkin bread before I decide how I'm going to try to make 'my' pumpkin bread. I respect the opinions of so many cooks out there but, for a thing like pumpkin bread, I don't have to test bake all 20 recipes to know which one is 'good.' (Not anymore, anyway.) I am by no means a professional in the kitchen, but I know enough in the kitchen to figure that out. But for some recipes, I do follow it to the letter (and I always source it), and that can be great to learn, too.

In saying all of that, here are some places where I'm formulating ideas for the week of Thanksgiving. I'm trying to keep it simple this year. My parents will be in town for a week, and I want to spend time with them, not with my face in an oven. If you need a little inspiration, trust me, these are some quality sources:

8 Bite-Sized Thanksgiving Recipes from The Kitchn (Keeping it simple with little tastes like Sausage, fennel & gruyere mini egg stratas and Mini sweet potato pies)

 65 Thankgiving Side Dishes from Shugary Sweets  (Note: Stuffins--stuffing muffins and Artichoke Parmesan Sourdough Stuffing

A Vegan Thanksgiving Menu from Oh She Glows. (Pumpkin garlic knots are amazing.)

Holidays are so stressful, I'd like to relax with a cocktail from Serious Eats.

That's what I've got for you. Happy weekend/Friday!


Happy eating! Laurel

Friday, November 15, 2013

Day 13: A Hearty Fiesta Salad

When one hears, "We're having salad for dinner," this can invoke emotions across the spectrum.

Grumble...err...all I want is a steak & baked potatoes with a quart of gravy covered over it, not some puny little rabbit food.

Eh, salads are so boring...they never fill me up, and I'm just tired of eating them.

Yay! Salad! I had one for lunch, and I can't wait to try another way to turn the boring green salad or caesar on its head with this new one!

Are any of those YOUR responses when presented with a salad for dinner after a very, very long day? Sure, sometimes all we want is the one meal we know our doctor would disapprove of us having (like my stupid craving for Pizza Hut last night...what was I thinking?).

So we need an alternative. We need a healthy lettuce-based meal that is fun, interesting and (of course) delicious. It needs to be colorful and enticing to look at and eat.

Behold, the Hearty Fiesta Salad. Let's make it.

Hearty Fiesta Salad
4 servings (2 for dinner, 2 for lunch the next day)

8 cups of greens (your choice--I used spinach and baby kale)
Handful of baby carrots or 1-2 large carrots, chopped
1/2 cup corn or other veggie (use whatever you have on hand)
1 cup black beans (rinsed and drained, if from a can)
12-16 oz of chicken/pork/turkey/beef or veggie crumbles, cooked and seasoned with taco seasoning (cumin, garlic powder, chili powder, onion powder, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt)
1 cup Shredded cheese (your choice)
1/4 cup toasted sunflower seeds
Optional dressings/on the side: Salsa, Guacamole

Assemble your plate or bowl by layering each of the ingredients (split the above into 4 servings). Add a dash of your favorite seasoning blend (like Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute) to the top of the salad for surprising flavor in each bite (much like a steak). :)

Eat, drink, be merry and full!

Happy eating! Laurel

Day 12: Pumpkin Pear Oats

It's so easy to watch the news (online) or read the paper (on an app) and resonate with the USDA's fight to end childhood obesity. Americans are fat because of sodas, refined sugars, white flours. American adults overeat and overindulge, which means we are creating children that overeat and overindulge. It's amazing how children pick up on their parents' habits. Can you think of some eating habits that you've 'inherited' from your parents?

My parents were great in their parenting skills, and I think they did a great job raising me. (The results are up for debate.) And, good or bad, I have definitely picked up many of their eating habits over the years, many without even realizing it. Good: fruit with lunch and veggies always with dinner. Not so good: dessert after lunch and dinner. They don't do that as much anymore, but it's amazing how even just a year of one habit can stick with a person (like me). But these are things we grew up with, and it is our responsibility to decide to incorporate healthier choices into our inherited eating habits.

So, instead of a cookie at the end of lunch, it's usually low sugar yogurt or a piece of fruit. I'm still working on dessert after dinner...that's a tough one to change. Since I am a self-proclaimed sugar/ dessert hog or sweet tooth, and it stands to reason that I need some alternatives. Why not oats?

When prepared in large batches, it can last for days.
Oats are the base for hundreds of flavors based on the ingredients you add into them.
Sweet or savory, oats are a great source of whole grains without spiking your sugar or salt levels.
They are so filling and, since they act as a sponge, cause you to drink lots of liquids (water) with them.

Okay, lets make some 'sugar free,' Fall-themed oats. Pumpkin, banana, and cheese are my three favorite ingredients to add into oats (but not altogether).

Pumpkin Pear Oats
Servings: 4
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups milk of your choice
1 ripe pear
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 t. cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup chopped almonds

Top each bowl with one tablespoon of dried cranberries and almonds. Savor the flavor! 

Happy eating!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Day 11: Break the Rules: Sweet Potatoes

Breakfast for Dinner has always been one of my favorite...because it breaks all the rules. Sweet potatoes are kind of the same dessert for dinner. Yes, it involves brown sugar and sweet potatoes, but you'll receive 300% of your Vitamin C in just one meal. Let's get to it.

(Mom, I hope you're not reading this...although my love for sweet potatoes totally came from your side of the family. Just remember...I used to whine if I had to eat the meat on my plate and NEVER hesitated to eat my veggies.)

Break the Rules: Sweet Potatoes
Okay, so this isn't really a recipe, but if you want to know how I make 'em, read on!

1 chunky sweet potato (yam, yam, yam), that isn't too skinny but is as 'fat' as you can find
1/2 cup mini marshmallows
1 TB butter
1/2 to 1 tsp of cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg

Step one: Rinse and poke a few fork holes throughout the potato. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. (Don't judge.)

Step two: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wrap the potato in foil and it in the oven, straight on the middle rack. Bake for 20-ish minutes, or until soft and tender to the (oven mitt-covered) touch. 

Step three: Unwrap, set on a plate, and slice open (half lengthwise). Top with the rest of the ingredients (and maybe some caramel sauce or other rule-breakers).

Eat, you rebel, eat. And, for those of you that live with a guy who'd rather eat a sponge than a sweet potato, enjoy it gloriously. Happy weekend, friends!!

Happy eating!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Day 10: Garlicky Salsa Verde

The average Texan consumes so, so much salsa. And it's a year-round thing. So, even though this is a Fall-focused 31-day challenge (that is stretching out into November, heh)...I'm adding salsa verde. Because I can. And you can, too. Plus, tomatillo season goes into November.

Garlicky Salsa Verde
Tomatillos are those little green jewels most tend to walk right past at the grocery store or farmer's market. They are part of the nightshade family, which is related to the tomato. They grow in husks and are great roasted, chopped on top of a salad, or however you like.
Makes 3-4 cups of salsa

1 pound of tomatillos (the little green "tomatoes"), about 8 or 9 of them
5 garlic cloves
1/3 cup chopped onions (one-quarter of a large onion)
1/4 cup chopped chives
1 handful of cilantro (2/3 cup-ish), thick stems removed
1/4 cup water
2 tsp chili powder
6 dashes of Chipotle Tabasco
Salt and pepper, to taste (about 1/2 tsp salt)

Step One: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove husks and rinse the tomatillos; remove peel from garlic. On a rimmed baking sheet, spread out the tomatillos and the garlic. Bake for 5 minutes, then flip the tomatillos and bake for 5 more minutes, or until tomatillos are an olive color. Remove from oven, and set aside to cool a bit.

Step Two: In a blender or food processor, add the remaining ingredients, including a little salt and pepper. Next, add the garlic cloves and the tomatillos (plus any juices from the tomatillos). Blend until it is the consistency you prefer. (I prefer pretty smooth...few chunks.) Grab some chips and eat! Or top on some enchiladas. MMM.

With help from
Rick Bayless & The Homesick Texan, but mostly by trial and error :)


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Day 9: Cranberry Pumpkin Sunflower Oats

 Creamy, dreamy aromas of spices and pumpkin pie. That's worth getting out of bed for.

Cranberry Pumpkin Sunflower Oats
Makes 4 servings; reheats well for Monday through Thursday breakfasts. You're welcome. :)

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups milk of your choice
Dash of salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of Allspice
2 TB brown sugar
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds

In a medium pot on medium heat, combine the oats, water, milk and salt. Let heat until it gets bubbly, and then start stirring constantly.

Stir in pumpkin puree, spices and sugar. Let cook for 2 more minutes, or until piping hot.

Serve in a bowl with 1 TB sunflower seeds and 2 TB dried cranberries sprinkled on top (for each serving). Breathe in the aromas of fall and eat until you are full!

***Pairs wonderfully with a hot mug of chai tea...***


Happy eating!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Day 8: Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cake

Ever bake with oatmeal? Me, not so much. But I'm an oatmeal lover, all kinds of oatmeal. And who doesn't love cake? Let's combine them.

Chocolate Chip Irish Oatmeal Cake
My in-laws' Irish heritage runs deep. I know very little about my own Irish roots. But Irish oats are delicious (heh), and so that calls for incorporating them into a dense, delicious chocolate cake that wouldn't be overshadowed next to a Guinness. Also great with black coffee or a Fall hot cocoa.

1 cup Irish oats (steel cut oats)
1 3/4 cups boiling water 
6 TB butter/margarine
1 cup brown sugar (not packed)
3/4 cup granulated sugar

3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup cake flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 TB cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet) 
Powdered sugar, enough for dusting the top

In a large bowl, carefully combine the dry oats and the boiling water, letting it sit for about 10 minutes together. Next, add the butter and let it melt. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

After that, add both sugars and then whisk in the egg. In a second bowl, whisk together the two flours, cocoa powder, baking soda and optional cinnamon; then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients. Stir in the chocolate chips.

In a nonstick 9X13 pan, pour the batter in. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until center of cake is firm. (This is a dense cake!). Dust with powdered sugar and serve warm or room temperature.

Adapted from McCann's Irish Oatmeal

Happy eating!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Portland in the Fall

We snapped a few last photos of the roses before the first cold came...while it's well into October, we've had some gorgeous, sunny days. I'll share those with you as soon as we take them! Hope you enjoy your hometown as much as we're in awe of the beauty of the Northwest!

Multnomah Falls...I never get sick of this!

The roses are a foot taller than me. :)

Happy breathing!

Day 7: Smokin' Tofu

I know, I know, it's tofu...but would a bbq-raised Texan bring you a bland, eggy substance and call it SMOKIN'? I think not. Let's get busy.

Tofu is a blank canvas for so much...I actually love smoked tofu in stuff but it's often hard to find at the store or more pricey than the reg tofu. Get organic tofu if you's the real stuff. This is quick, easy, and sure to satisfy even the carnivore grizzly bears in your home.

Smokin' Tofu
Block of extra firm tofu (14 oz or so)
1/2 cup barbecue sauce (homemade or store bought)
1 TB sesame oil
1 tsp liquid smoke
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp hot sauce (Tabasco chipotle, for example)
1/8 tsp fresh ground pepper

Supplies: towel, heavy book(s), bowl + brush, rimmed baking sheet, cooling rack (see photo)

Step one: Drain the tofu. It sounds gross, but tofu is a sponge--the more water you drain out means the more flavor/smoke liquid you can inject in. We want the tofu as dry as possible, so wrap the tofu in an absorbent kitchen towel. Place your heaviest cookbook or textbook on top of the tofu and let the towel absorb the liquid, about 20 minutes.

Step two: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. (This is the universal temp for cornbread, french fries, roasted veggies and all things hearty and awesome. FYI.) Slice the tofu into "finger-sized" strips, about 14 will come out of a 14 oz block of tofu. In a small bowl, combine all of the seasoning ingredients (sauce, oil, smoke, salt, hot sauce and pepper).

Step three: Place the cooking rack on top of the baking sheet. Line the tofu onto the rack and brush the bbq sauce mixture onto BOTH sides of the tofu. (OPTION: If you have a little time, put the tofu into a gallon zipper bag with the sauce and let marinade for an hour or two. Then, use the excess sauce to brush on the tofu.)

Step four: Bake the tofu for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through and brush with the rest of the sauce. Serve piping hot with a baked potato, fries and some beautiful steamed broccoli.

Happy eating!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Day 6: Caramel Apple Glazed Popcorn

Oh, dear, I missed a day! Fail. Oh, well, let's eat something awesome.

Remember that 12-hour applesauce I made a few days ago? Let's use it!

Caramel Apple Glazed Popcorn
Gooey, caramel, nutty, apple happiness in a bed of fluffy, salty, crunchy popcorn pillows. This might be the best snack I've ever tasted. Decadent.

1 apple
6 cups plain or salted popcorn
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup 
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Step One: If you don't have baked apples or broken down 12-hour applesauce (apple butter might work), core and slice an apple into 1/8-inch thick rounds. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees until dry but still a little soft, about 2 hours. Chop enough to make 1/2 cup. Or just use 1/2 cup of your chopped stewed apples or 12-hour applesauce.

Step Two: In a saucepan, boil the brown sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt until it reaches 300 degrees (use your candy themometer). This'll take 5-10 minutes.

Step three: Mix the sugar mixture with the popcorn and toss in the apples and pecans and stir. Let cool slightly, then form into balls or just eat straight out of the bowl. (I dare you!) Enjoy this.

 Lightly adapted from Food Network

Happy snacking!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Day 5: Fall Football Queso

Matt and I have a lot in common. A deep-rooted love for football is not one of them. He is really sweet to walk away from games and hang out with me on the weekends, but I know he could easily watch five games straight and be happy as a clam. What we DO have in common is QUESO. And I'll eat queso in front of a football game any day, any time. Even if it means I have no idea how the game works. It's time to share Matt's super awesome, super creamy "y'all come" queso. We are Texan, after all, and a y'all is in order.

Fall Football Queso
For the record, every time my husband [Matt] makes queso, it is good. However, he rarely repeats the same recipe...okay, he never repeats the same way twice. But this one was worth writing down. Here goes.
1 pound ground pork
Chipotle taco seasoning packet (1/2 of one)
2 t. Chipotle Tabasco (5 shakes)
1/2 t. granulated garlic
Dash of cayenne pepper and black pepper
1 pound loaf of lowfat Velveeta, cubed
2 cans Original Rotel, drained
1/4 cup diced green onions
1/2 cup chopped cilantro 

Step one: 
Brown the pork in a pan. Drain it and add the seasoning packet (1/2), Tabasco, garlic, and 2 peppers. Cook on low-medium heat for a few more minutes, so the seasoning will be absorbed better.

Step two: Turn the Crock Pot (we used a 4-quart) onto High. Add the remaining ingredients, as well as the pork. Cover with lid and keep it on High until the cheese is completely melted. Stir every 20-30 minutes. 

Step three: Once the cheese is melted, turn the heat down to Low and let simmer for 2 hours (or until you're ready to serve). The longer you let it simmer, the better. :) 

Enjoy with chips, veggies, or any other favorite dippers.

Happy football and eating!