February 27, 2012

Egg Salad Sandwiches

Egg salad sounds boring, right?  I thought so too until I saw an article in the current issue of Eating Well suggesting several variations.  For lunch today, I had an egg salad combo of carrots, cucumber, green onions and plain Greek yogurt that was outstanding.

I had forgotten how easy it is to hard-boil eggs in my Oster Steamer.  Just fill with water, 8 eggs and set the timer for 30 minutes.  After the eggs have finished cooking, remove the steamer container (using oven gloves) and immerse the eggs in cold water for about 10 minutes.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 8 hard-boiled eggs (minus 4 yolks)
  • 3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • Add peeled hard-boiled eggs to a medium bowl, discarding 4 yolks. Mash eggs.
  • Add the remaining ingredients, stirring until combined.
  • Serve on bread as a sandwich or over crisp lettuce as a salad.
Recipe adapted from: Eating Well - March/April 2012
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February 25, 2012

Artichoke Spinach Pasta {15 Minute Dinner}

Tonight's dinner was inspired by the blog post Better Spaghetti Sauce From a Jar.  I typically enjoy making more elaborate meals on weekends, but after getting home from the gym around 7pm, a dinner that could be prepared in 15 minutes sounded grand.

I started the sauce as though I were making artichoke spinach lasagna.  Onion, garlic, marinated artichokes, chopped spinach and marinara sauce.  Then I added red wine, Italian herbs and roasted red peppers.

Chris and I both really liked this pasta sauce, however it does lack protein so he added chicken to his portion. I remained content with my super-sized serving of vegetables by pairing my pasta with a large red leaf lettuce and spinach salad.

Artichoke Spinach Pasta {15 Minute Dinner} 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 12 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 12 oz jar roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
  • 26 oz jar marinara pasta sauce
  • 5 oz red wine
  • 1 teaspoon Italian herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 10 oz whole wheat pasta
  • Parmesan cheese
5 minutes
  • Chop onion and mince garlic.
  • Drain and chop marinated artichokes and roasted red pepper.
  • Drain and squeeze dry thawed spinach.
10 minutes
  • Bring 4 quarts of salted water to a boil.
  • In a 12-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook 2 minutes.
  • Add artichokes, roasted red pepper, spinach, red wine, marinara sauce and seasonings.  Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add pasta to boiling water. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Drain pasta, then top with sauce and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
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February 21, 2012

Quinoa, Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

When I saw Holly's blog post yesterday, I knew I needed to try her chili recipe.  The combination of black beans, sweet potatoes and quinoa sounded great, and it totally lived up to my expectations.

I followed a recipe on Allrecipes.com for the chili seasoning.  As long as you've got the necessary 9 ingredients in your cupboard, I think it's preferable to make your own seasoning so you can adjust it as desired.  For example, I completely omit the crushed red pepper and have Chris add it to his own bowl.

3-Bean Chili with Quinoa & Sweet Potatoes

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Ingredients (6-8 servings)

    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 8 minced garlic cloves
    • 6 cups water
    • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
    • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
    • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
    • 3 - 15 oz cans beans, rinsed and drained (such as black, pinto and kidney beans)
    • 4 oz can diced green chiles
    • 2 tablespoons lime juice (from 1 lime)
    • 1/4 cup chili seasoning (or substitute below)
    Chili Seasoning Substitute:

    • 2 teaspoons chili powder
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (omit for mild chili)
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 3/4 teaspoon dried parsley
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    In a stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, saute for 5 minutes.
    Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes or until sweet potatoes are tender, stirring occasionally (do not cover).

    February 16, 2012

    Sweet Raspberry Dip

    Pears and raspberry yogurt are two items I often eat for lunch, but it never occurred to me to combine the two.  That is until I saw a recommendation to do so in the current issue of Real Simple magazine.

    This easy and nutritious snack has approximately 200 calories per serving (100 for the dip and 100 for one pear).  I don't have kids, but this recipe seems like one that kids might like without realizing their eating Greek yogurt and two types of fruit. 

    Sweet Raspberry Dip

    Prep Time: 2 minutes
    Cook Time: N/A

    Ingredients (2 servings)
    • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt (I prefer Chobani)
    • 1/2 cup fresh or (thawed) frozen raspberries
    • 1/2 tablespoon sugar
    • 2 pears, sliced
    • In a small bowl, mash the raspberries with the sugar, then stir in the yogurt. Serve with sliced pears.
    Recipe Source: Real Simple - March 2012
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    February 13, 2012

    Curried Cauliflower & Chickpeas with Couscous

    I love everything about this recipe.  It's simple to make, nutritious and tastes great!  Even better it's a slow cooker recipe, so dinner can be ready when you get home from work...assuming you're able to come home on your lunch hour like I am, since it cooks in about 6 hours.  We've had it both with and without couscous and both versions are great. 

    I realized tonight that I'm almost out of coconut milk from Trader's Joe's, so a trip there next weekend is a must.  I wish it was closer, but have heard rumors that one is coming to Brookfield, which would be great.  I had recently stocked up, but then discovered coconut rice pudding :)

    Curried Cauliflower & Chickpeas with Couscous

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 3 hours (High), 6 hours (Low)

    Ingredients (serves 6)
    • 3 medium-size carrots, finely chopped
    • 4 cups cauliflower florets (about 3/4 pound)
    • 30oz chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    • 1 cup frozen peas
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    • 1 cup vegetable broth
    • 3/4 cup coconut milk
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil (optional)
    • 1 cup dry couscous (optional)
    • In slow cooker bowl, stir together carrots, cauliflower, chickpeas, peas, onion, garlic, curry powder, coriander and red pepper flakes.
    • Pour vegetable broth and coconut milk over top.
    • Cover slow cooker bowl and cook for 3 hours on high or for 6 hours on low.
    • Remove 2 cups chickpea mixture to a small bowl and mash with a potato masher; stir in salt and basil if desired, return mashed chickpea mixture to slow cooker bowl.
    • Stir until well combined and heated through.
    • If using couscous, prepare according to package directions, about 5 minutes; serve as the base for the curry.
    Recipe adapted from: Family Circle
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    February 12, 2012

    Valentine's Truffles {Coconut, Cake Batter & Peanut Butter}

    Valentine's Day provided a great excuse for me to make three different types of truffles today.  I've packaged most of them up to take into work tomorrow, so Chris and I aren't tempted to eat them all :)

    The first is based on an Almond Joy recipe, and they really do taste like an almond joy. Pictured above are ones that I decorated with coconut, but I decorated others with finely chopped almonds for a more authentic Almond Joy experience.

    Coconut Truffles
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: Freezer: 45 minutes

    Ingredients (approximately 30 truffles)
    • 7 oz sweetened condensed milk
    • 1 cup powdered sugar
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla
    • pinch of salt
    • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
    • 1 pound milk chocolate, melted
    • finely chopped almonds to decorate, if desired
    • In a medium bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract.  Stir in the unsweetened coconut.  Freeze mixture for 30 minutes.
    • Form coconut mixture into 1-inch balls (I use a small Oxo scoop), place on a parchment lined pan, then freeze for an additional 15 minutes.
    • Line another baking sheet with parchment paper, then dip each ball in melted chocolate, and place on the parchment paper. Decorate with finely chopped almonds, if desired.
    • Note: The coconut balls can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer.
    Recipe Source: Joy the Baker
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    This cake batter recipe tastes like delicious raw cookie dough. I was surprised at how many sprinkles I needed to add to the dough to have visible sprinkles. I was wishing I had more because I ran out while decorating the tops.

    Cake Batter Truffles
    Prep Time: 30 minutes
    Cook Time: N/A

    Ingredients (approximately 40 truffles)
    • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 7 tablespoons milk
    • 1 cup yellow cake mix (a standard 15 oz box has 2 3/4 cups of cake mix)
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 1 pound chocolate coating, melted
    • Add butter and sugar to a stand mixer bowl and beat until combined.  Mix in the vanilla and milk.  Then add the cake mix, flour, and salt; mixing thoroughly.
    • If you'd like to add sprinkles into the dough, transfer dough to a clean surface and mix in my hand (approximately 3 tablespoons of sprinkles will be needed for a funfetti look).
    • Form dough into 1-inch balls (I use a small Oxo scoop), place on a parchment lined pan, then freeze for 15 minutes.
    • Remove from freezer, and dip each dough ball into melted chocolate.  Decorate as desired.
    • Note: The cake batter balls can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer.
    Recipe Source: The Girl Who Ate Everything
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    Finally, I made a Martha Stewart recipe and it was surprisingly simple to make. I did have to freeze the mixture for quite awhile before I was able to form it into balls, but since I was busy dipping coconut and cake batter into chocolate, it didn't really matter.

    Peanut Butter Pretzel Truffles
    Prep Time: 5 minutes
    Cook Time: Freezer: 30 minutes

    Ingredients (approximately 18 truffles)
    • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
    • 1 tablespoon butter, softened
    • 1 cup crushed pretzels (I crush Pretzel Crisps in a food processor)
    • 5 oz chocolate coating, melted
    • In a medium bowl, stir together peanut butter, sugar, and butter.
    • Stir in crushed pretzels.  Note the finer you crush the pretzels, the smoother the chocolate coating will be.
    • Form into 1-inch balls (I use a small Oxo scoop) then freeze for 30 minutes.  If you're having trouble forming balls, put the mixture in the freezer until it's easier to work with.
    • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, then dip each ball in melted chocolate, and place on the parchment paper.  Decorate as desired.
    • Refrigerate until set.
    • Note: The peanut butter balls can be made ahead of time and stored in the freezer.
    Recipe Source: Martha Stewart
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    February 11, 2012

    My Spice Cupboard

    If you cook frequently, like I do, you access your spices and herbs for almost every recipe. About a year ago, I organized our spices by purchasing jars from World Market and tiered organizers from Target.

    I really like my new system, however I hadn't thought it through to the next step of maintaining the spices.  This occurred to me on Friday as I was making enchiladas and ran out of chili powder.

    I have a large basket full of bulk bags from Penzeys and had assumed there must be a chili powder bag in my basket.  I was wrong.  So today, I quickly typed up a list of every spice, herb and seasoning in my cupboard, and added a "P" if I have more in a bulk bag in the pantry (this project took less than 5 minutes).

    I also added a date column in an attempt to monitor the freshness of my spices.  I've heard various time frames on how long spices and herbs are at their best, so I'm not really sure when I would pitch older ones, but I figure the first step is knowing just how old each one is.

    The list is taped inside my cupboard and I'm hopeful that this new system will prevent me from running out of a spice in the middle of a recipe.  By the way, in lieu of chili powder on Friday, I added 1/2 cumin and 1/2 oregano, with a dash of Sriacha instead, and I couldn't tell the difference.

    After taking inventory, I had quite a list for Penzeys.  I buy spices and herbs at Penzeys for several reasons: great quality, bulk bags (much cheaper than buying the glass jar), and their coupons.  If you sign up for their catalog (mailed 7 times/year), it often comes with a coupon for a free 1oz jar of a specific spice. 

    There's only one thing I dislike about Penzeys and that is the organization of their store.  I find it very difficult to find what I'm looking for, and desperately wish they'd just arrange everything alphabetically.  Even worse, the location I go to just recently rearranged and every customer I saw in there today was asking for help in finding what they were looking for.

    February 06, 2012

    Pesto Raviolini Soup

    I'm on a soup kick lately, and happy to say that I've found another great soup recipe.  This pesto soup comes from a Betty Crocker recipe, which I changed by adding more vegetables.  I had never seen a soup recipe before that called for only one carrot and one celery stalk.

    Instead of tortellini, as called for in the original recipe, I used raviolini from RP's Pasta Company. It's nice being able to buy locally made (Madison, WI) fresh pasta and it's sold in quite a few states, so it's worth checking out their site to see if it's sold near you.

    Pesto Raviolini Soup

    Prep Time: 10 minutes
    Cook Time: 15 minutes

    Ingredients (4-6 servings)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 cup chopped carrots
    • 1 cup chopped celery
    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 6 cups vegetable broth
    • 15oz red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
    • 9oz package cheese-filled raviolini (or tortellini)
    • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
    • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 4 tablespoons spinach basil pesto
    • freshly grated Parmesan cheese
    • Heat olive oil in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium heat.
    • Cook garlic, carrots, celery and onion for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    • Add broth, and bring to a boil. Add beans, raviolini, parsley and pesto. Cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat.
    • Top each serving with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
    Recipe adapted from: Betty Crocker
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    February 01, 2012

    Split Pea Saffron Soup

    I saw this recipe on the blog My New Roots yesterday, and immediately picked up split peas, so I could make it for dinner tonight.  I love the flavors in this soup.  Leeks, carrots, butternut squash, split peas and saffron combine beautifully.

    In addition to the soup, I also attempted the sun shaped carrots Sarah recommends to garnish the soup with.  Unfortunately, my soup did not turn out to be as thick as Sarah's, so my suns sunk to the bottom of the bowl. 

    I nearly cut my hand off attempting to wedge the length of the knife blade into the carrot, so I don't think I'll try them again.  However, I did find that a pastry cutter worked well for cutting the length of the carrots, if you want to give it a go :)

    I think homemade bread is the perfect accompaniment to soup, so last night I made the starter and baked it today.  It required adding ingredients during my lunch hour, but luckily I can come home for lunch.

    I should probably branch out and try other bread recipes, but rustic bread is the first yeast bread recipe I ever made, and now I'm partial to it.  Other than the 15 hour rise time, it's really quite simple to make, and if you have a dutch oven, I highly recommend making it.

    Split Pea Saffron Soup

    Prep Time: 20 minutes
    Cook Time: 25 minutes

    Ingredients (serves 4)
    • 1 cup dried yellow split peas
    • 20 threads of saffron
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
    • ½ teaspoon paprika
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 5 bay leaves
    • 2 large leeks, chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 butternut squash, cubed
    • 3 carrots, chopped
    • 6 cups vegetable broth, divided
    • Spread split peas out on a light colored plate to check for, and remove, small stones or debris. Then place them in a small bowl covered with water, and let soak for 8 hours.
    • In a very small bowl, add approximately 20 threads of saffron and cover with 2 tablespoons of hot water. Let steep for at least 10 minutes, setting it aside until you're ready to cook with it.
    • In a large stock pot heat the oil over medium-high heat and add the leeks and garlic, stirring often for 2 minutes. Then add the spices and bay leaves, stirring frequently for another minute. Finally, add the butternut squash, carrots and 1 cup of broth. Cook for 10 minutes.
    • Drain and rinse the split peas, then add to the pot with 5 cups broth and the saffron water (threads removed), bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.
    • Once the peas are cooked through and soft (about 15 minutes), remove the bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Serve immediately.
    Recipe adapted from: My New Roots
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