March 31, 2012

Indian-Spiced Cauliflower, Potato and Chickpeas

Chris told me he felt healthy eating tonight's dinner, which makes sense as it did contain a lot of vegetables.  Even better, we both really liked this new recipe which came from the May 2011 issue of Family Circle.

I was a little apprehensive as I sliced two large onions, and 15 minutes later ended up with 3 inches of onions in my 8-quart pot.  Surprisingly, the amount of onion was just right.

I like recipes that don't require constant stirring or supervision, and this recipe fits those requirements.  I was able to wash all of the prep dishes while dinner simmered, so all that was left on the counter was wine, two plates, and spinach (which is added at the end).

By the way, I highly recommend the Caves du Fournalet: Cotes du Rhone from Trader Joe's, which is a bargain at $5.99.

Indian-Spiced Cauliflower, Potato and Chickpeas
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 28 minutes
Ingredients (6 servings)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large onions, and thinly sliced
  • 4 teaspoons garam masala
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup quick-cook brown basmati rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 3 (3/4 lb) small red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1" pieces
  • 1 medium cauliflower (about 2 lbs), cut into florets
  • 2 cans (15 oz each) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 6 oz baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup unsalted cashews, chopped
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • In an 8-quart pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 minutes.
  • Stir in garam masala and cook for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes with their juice, and potatoes. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 7 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, add combine rice and water. Bring contents to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer for 12 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
  • Back to the main dish, stir in cauliflower, salt and chickpeas. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until potatoes and cauliflower are tender.
  • Gradually stir in spinach until wilted. Serve over rice and top with nuts. Squeeze lemon over each serving.
Recipe Source: Family Circle - May 2011
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March 19, 2012

Deconstructed Quinoa Black Bean Stuffed Peppers

6/11/14 Update: I've modified this recipe into a Quinoa & Black Bean Taco Bake.

I recently noticed Pinterest activity on my black bean stuffed peppers recipe which reminded me that I haven't made that recipe since June of last year, even though we really liked it.

I bought mini peppers at the grocery store over the weekend, so I tried a new variation for dinner tonight and it was delicious!

In addition to using mini peppers, I also used quinoa in place of brown rice.  You could leave the co-jack cheese off the top and this would be an incredibly healthy recipe.

Deconstructed Quinoa Black Bean Stuffed Peppers
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15-25 minutes

Ingredients (serves 6-8)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 can (10oz) diced tomatoes and green chilies, undrained
  • 1 can (4oz) diced green chiles
  • 1 can (15oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach
  • 4 bell peppers (or 20oz mini peppers), any color, chopped into 1/2" pieces
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup shredded co-jack cheese
  • In a small saucepan, combine quinoa and water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer over low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and let stand 5 minutes.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8 ramekins or an 11-cup baking dish with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, stir cream cheese until smooth. Then stir in remaining ingredients, except shredded cheese.
  • Fill each ramekin or place entire mixture in large baking dish. Sprinkle with cheese and bake ramekins for 15 minutes (11-cup baking dish for 25 minutes).
Recipe adapted from: Taste of Home Cooking School, Spring 2011
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Tzatziki Sauce for Falafels

Today was my second time making tzatziki and the Cooking Light recipe I followed was much better than the previous recipe I used.  In fact, I didn't think I liked tzatziki after making it the first time, so I'm happy I tried it again.

The April 2012 issue of Cooking Light says tzatziki is great with kebabs, crudités and baked pita chips.  I had mine with falafels from the freezer section at Trader Joe's, combined with lettuce inside pita bread.  Yet another quick, favorite meal from TJ's.

Tzatziki is easy to make, and the falafels from Trader Joe's are quick to heat. The package states that microwaving is the preferred heating method, and 3 pieces heat in just 1 1/2 minutes. 

My lunch today came together in just 5 minutes, which included heating my frozen pita in the oven. I typically toast my pitas, but the 7" size is too big for my toaster and the smaller pita size doesn't work nearly as well for the size of the falafels. 

The original recipe calls for fresh dill which I bet tastes great, but I used dried and it was still really good.  I've also read that you should refrigerate tzatziki for a couple hours before using it to allow the flavors to develop, but my lunch plan didn't allow for that, and it was still very tasty.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: N/A
Ingredients (4 servings)
  • 3/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup grated cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill (or 1 teaspoon dried dill)
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients until combined.
  • If time allows, place in refrigerator for two hours before serving so flavors can blend.
  • Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days, draining off water each time you use it.
Recipe Source: Cooking Light - April 2012
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March 18, 2012

Pasta Machine & Ravioli Maker

A few months ago I made ravioli for the first time, and I immediately wanted to puchase a pasta machine.  I researched reviews on Amazon and decided on the Marcato Atlas Pasta Maker.  I watched the price changes on Camel, Camel, Camel and just recently pulled the trigger.

I tried it today for the first time and I'm already in love.  For my first attempt, I even used a traditional Italian pasta dough recipe (500 grams flour, 5 eggs) instead of adding water as Americans like to do.  As I was kneading together the flour and eggs, it seemed way too dry but eventually it did form a really nice dough.

I also added a Norpro Ravioli Maker and Press to my Amazon order, and I'm so glad I did because it really simplifies the process of making ravioli. 

It seems like something that would be easy to use, and it is, but I had to watch a YouTube video to figure out how to use it. Right around the 3 minute mark is where I think the video becomes most helpful.  I promise these two kids in the video know what they're doing.

I used the same filling and sauce as the last time I made ravioli, which is a spinach & three cheese filling with garlic butter sauce.  It was just as delicious as I remembered.

I was anxious to try the two cutters on the pasta machine too, so I made a batch of spaghetti and fettuccine as well.  The pasta maker greatly speeds up the process of making fresh pasta, however the entire process is definitely still somewhat time consuming and best left for weekend meals. 

March 11, 2012

Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes

For dessert tonight, I made a recipe I saw in a Dole magazine ad.  Pineapple upside-down cake is one of my favorites, and I loved the idea of making it in individual sized portions. 

It's a bit more difficult than making a regular cake, but it doesn't take too long to portion out each mini cake.  Be sure to push the cherry through the pineapple in order for it to be visible when you flip the pan.

The original recipe said to add 1/4 cup of cake batter to each muffin cup which was way too much.  The batter was even with the top of the muffin cup before baking, when it should really only be about 2/3 full.

My second muffin pan recently bit the dust, so I used my mini muffin pan instead.  Not sure what this version would be mini cakes?  I really liked the bite size version but half a cherry was a bit too much for this miniature treat.

I had never heard of putting whipped cream on pineapple upside-down cake until a friend told me that's how she serves it.  Sure enough, whipped cream tastes great with this cake.

Mini Pineapple Upside-Down Cakes
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20-25 minutes
Ingredients (24 servings)
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 20 oz crushed pineapple, drained
  • 12 maraschino cherries, cut in half
  • 1 package yellow or pineapple cake mix (plus eggs, oil and water as called for in the package directions)
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly spray two muffin pans with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the melted butter and brown sugar. Then evenly divide the mixture into 24 muffins cups (approximately 1 teaspoon each).
  • Next divide the drained pineapple over the sugar mixture (approximately 2 teaspoons each - a small cookie scoop works well). Then place cherries in the center, sliced side up, pushing each down through the pineapple.
  • Prepare cake mix according to package directions, then spoon over pineapple, filling each cup 2/3 full.
  • Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Loosen edges and invert onto cookie sheets by placing a cookie sheet flush against the muffin pan and then flipping it.
Recipe Source: Dole
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March 10, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

This bruschetta is a quick and tasty appetizer.  With a jar of roasted red peppers, a package of goat cheese, and a baguette on hand, you can serve this within 10 minutes.

I like making appetizers on weekends because it feels a bit like dining out.  We rarely eat out because it's typically more expensive and less healthy than eating at home, which is hard because Milwaukee has some great restaurants.

I've also found that having a cocktail with appetizers makes it feel more like a restaurant experience :)  Tonight I enjoyed a cosmopolitan, and was reminded of a favorite line from Sex and the City..."why did we ever stop drinking these?"

If I had fresh basil right now, I would have topped each baguette slice with it.  The summer growing season can't come quickly enough!

Roasted Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Bruschetta
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes

  • french baguette
  • soft, fresh goat cheese (chèvre)
  • roasted red peppers, chopped
  • optional seasonings: splash of balsamic vinegar, Italian herbs, salt and pepper
  • optional topping: fresh basil, chiffonade
  • Heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice baguette into 1/2" thick slices.
  • Spread goat cheese on each baguette slice. If the texture is too crumbly, allow it to warm at room temperature for a few minutes until it is workable.
  • Add peppers to the top of each slice and season as desired. Bake for 5 minutes, and serve warm. Add fresh basil after removing from oven, if desired.
Recipe Source: Epicurious
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Pear Pie Bites

Seeing Apple Pie Bites pinned on Pinterest reminded me of the Apple Pie Cookies I made last fall.  The idea is really similar, but the bites are easier to make.  I prefer pears to apples, which got me thinking about a Pear Tart that I like to make and the result was delicious pear pie bites.

Have you ever had pear pie?  I think it's a shame that apple is more popular because pear pie is so good.  The one and only place I have ever had it is at my grandma's house.  I assume that she makes it because she has a pear tree, and it is a fantastic use of pears.

Once you've made (or puchased) the pie crust, this recipe comes together really quickly.  Roll out one pie crust, cut into 2" strips, and then into 4" wide sections.  Mix the sliced pears, lemon juice, cinnamon and sugar.  Add a couple pear slices to each section of dough, roll it up and sprinkle more cinnamon and sugar on top.

If you prefer less crust, cut the strips into a 1" width and then pear will be exposed on each side.  I love pie crust, so I prefer a heavy crust to filling ratio :)

Pear Pie Bites
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 11 minutes

Ingredients (makes 24)
  • 1 pie crust
  • 1 ripe but firm pear, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  • Roll out one pie crust, and cut into 2-inch strips. Then into 4-inch sections.
  • In a small bowl, combine the sliced pears and then lemon juice. Then combine the cinnamon and sugar, reserving one tablespoon of the mixture, and stir in with the pears.
  • Place a couple pear slices in pie crust section and roll it up. After each section is rolled, sprinkle the remaining cinnamon and sugar on the top of each.
  • Then move each pear bite to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 11 minutes. These are best served warm. Microwave leftovers for 20 seconds each.
Recipe adapted from: Budget Savvy Diva
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March 07, 2012

Cilantro Dip for Samosas

We've been trying quite a few Trader Joe's items lately, and discovered tonight that their vegetable samosas are fantastic!  For dipping, we had mango chutney and a cilantro dipping sauce I made.

In the past, we've always purchased samosas dipping sauces from an Indian grocery store.  This time, I looked to the internet for a dipping sauce recipe and found that cilantro sauces are traditional accompaniements to Indian samosas. 

Chris and I both loved the cilantro sauce that I made tonight, and the mango chutney was also great with the samosas.  The cilantro sauce is really easy to make, and has a great complex flavor.  I should point out that cilantro is not my favorite, but I still really liked this dipping sauce.

Cilantro Dipping Sauce for Samosas
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: N/A

Ingredients (1/2 cup for 12 samosas)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 4 oz can diced green chiles
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • a handful of walnuts (less than a 1/4 cup)
  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and purée thoroughly.
Recipe adapted from: Fine Cooking
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March 03, 2012

Banana Bread

Everyone needs a favorite banana bread recipe, assuming that everyone else sometimes lets bananas get too ripe like we do :)  My favorite recipe comes from Simply Recipes, with the only change being that I add walnuts. 

Banana Bread
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Ingredients (1 loaf)
  • 3 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x4 inch loaf pan with cooking spray.
  • In a large bowl, mix butter and mashed bananas with a wooden spoon. Add sugar, egg and vanilla. Next, stir in baking soda, salt and flour. Finally, mix in walnuts, if desired.
  • Pour mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 50 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a rack.
Recipe Source: Simply Recipes
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March 02, 2012

Pumpkin Donut Muffins

Martha Stewart recipes rarely fail to impress, and the treat I made this evening was no exception.  In fact, they were so good that I froze 2/3 of the muffins to stop myself from eating them all in rapid succession.

The original recipe calls for the entire muffin to be coated in cinnamon and sugar, however after trying a couple, I found it was too sweet for my preference.  In fact, I really like this muffin without any coating at all, especially hot straight out of the oven.

I used my favorite Reynolds Stay-Brite muffin liners, which are ideal for this recipe because the liners easily remove from the muffins. You don't even need to peel the liner, just flip it over and the muffin falls out.  Dip the top in melted butter, then in the cinnamon and sugar mixture, and finally return the muffin to the liner.

Pumpkin Donut Muffins

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 25-30 minutes
Ingredients (20 muffins)
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1/4 teaspoon allspice
    • 1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree (from one 15 oz can)
    • 1/3 cup buttermilk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
    • 10 tablespoons butter, softened
    • 2 large eggs
    • 1/4 cup sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 3 tablespoons butter
    • Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 20 muffin cups with liners.
    • In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, nutmeg and allspice. Set aside.
    • In a small bowl, whisk together pumpkin, buttermilk and vanilla. Set aside.
    • Using a stand mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Then with mixer on a low speed, add flour mixture alternating with the pumpkin mixture, mixing until combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
    • Add approximately a 1/4 cup batter to each muffin cup (I use a large Oxo cookie scoop). Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
    • Let muffins cool 10 minutes in the pan, on a wire rack. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon. Then melt butter in another small bowl (that's big enough to dip the muffins into). After muffins have cooled, dip the top in melted butter and then cinnamon and sugar. Serve warm.

    Recipe adapted from: Martha Stewart Everyday Food - November 2010
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