Friday, December 14, 2012

Cookies of course!

Cookie by romantic.....if your a cookie.......

Well I wish that my first recipe back was a big ole vegetable over a nutty healthy grain but alas, it isn't. Tis the season for cookies, yall! My older bro suggested I make these cookies, and I'm so glad I did. I was looking for a cranberry cookie, but didn't want a lot of fuss. This little guy (gal?, I'm not clear on the gender of a cookie) was perfect. The cornmeal is an interesting addition, one I really enjoyed. What's nice, is the cornmeal gives the cookie new fresh taste, but I didn't feel like I was eating cornbread by any means. The cornmeal and flour combo works perfectly. Plus the dough also comes together very quickly and doesn't require a lot of delicate steps. Intricate doughs can be fun, but sometimes you need a cookie that can come together in 20 minutes or less, lets all be honest. This is definitely that. I also appreciate this little nibble, because for a dessert, it's fairly harmless. Only 3/4 cup of sugar in the recipe (plus the coating), no butter, and 1/4 cup oil. A lot the flavor comes from the cranberries and the orange zest, both ingredients I love. If you don't like cranberries, well don't make this recipe silly! This is not a rich indulgent treat, so if you are looking for that, well you can find those pretty much everywhere this time of year. This is, however, a suprising simple and delicous cookie that is a great way to finish a heavy meal when you want a dessert, but nothing to heavy handed. Give this cornmeal cookie a try, go on, you'll like it.

First whisk your dry ingredients
Mixing in the orange zest and dried cranberries
Its your dough! 
Make balls of dough
Roll in sugar. Yes! 
Place on baking sheet

Cranberry Cornmeal Cookies
Adapted from "The Quick Recipe" by the Staff of America's Best Test Kitchen

Makes 10-12 large cookies
The Goods:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon grated zest from 1 orange
3-4 tablespoons of orange juice (optional)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
2 large eggs
1/4 cup grapeseed oil (or other flavorless oil)

The Deal:

1. This first step is optional. If you have time, do it, if you don't have time, well you know. Place cranberries in a small bowl and toss with orange juice. You want the cranberries soaking in the juice, but not covered with juice. Let sit for at least 6 hours. Drain cranberries before using.

2. Adjust your oven rack to the middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a large baking sheet with non-stick spray and/or use parchment paper.

3. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, 1/2 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add orange zest and whisk to combine. Add the cranberries and using a rubber spatula, toss to combine.  Whisk together the eggs and oil in a measuring cup. Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and mix with rubber spatula until evenly moistened.

4. Fill a small bowl with cold water and place 1/3 cup sugar in an 8- or 9- inch pie plate. Dip your hands into the water and roll about 2 tablespoons of cookie dough into a rough ball. Drop the ball into the pie plate with sugar and toss to coat. Place the formed, sugar-coated cookie on the prepared pan, leaving 1 1/2 inches between balls. If your hands become too sticky (which is possible, this dough is very sticky, so be sure to keep your hands wet), dip them into the water and shake away the excess. If the dough become super unruly you can always refrigerate it for 20 minutes or so.

5. Bake until the cookies are light golden brown, 18-20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet front to back halfway through the baking time. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet until slightly set, about 2 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire cooling rack. Cool for 15 minutes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Trail Livin

Hello All!
   I assume that most who view this site are friends and family, but on the off chance I have other random followers, I wanted to explain my long absence. Basically I spent a few months preparing to go on an adventure, went on said adventure, and am now returned and trying to get back to normal life, aka gainful employment. Also looking into grad school, contemplating the great "who knows what" of the universe, and in general doing the late 20's thang.

My adventure? Hiking the Appalachian Trail  with healthy boyfriend. And yes, you assume right, it WAS his idea. Our plan was to thru-hike the whole sha-bang, but sadly my feet did not seem up to the challenge (possibly rockin plantar fasciitis, not cool......not cool). So after 600 miles my thru-hike turned into a section hike, while healthy boyfriend hikes on like a hiking rockstar. It was an incredible experience, one that made me more grateful for the every day blessings, and appreciate all the amazing things the outdoors have to offer. It also made me beyond thankful for fresh healthy food, given the hiker diet was high in fat, sugar, and carbs, but severely lacking in nutrition. A fresh spinach salad was pretty much myth told round the campfire.

So that's where I've been, as to where I'm going....well know anyone who is hiring? neither. Anyway time to get back to real life and I promise I'll get back to cooking soon.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Just the cake for you.

Yep, it's as good as it looks.
So much for not being a cake person. Growing up I avoided cake at most birthday parties. Dry flavorless crumbs, almost always in the vanilla or chocolate variety never got me very excited. Sure I would lick the icing, but you were way more likely to find me sitting at the pizza table, than sitting by the cake. I've always preferred salty over sweet, which may also explain my salty personality :)

As I've gotten older I've realized that a good quality cake is one of the best things you can put in your mouth. You just have to use quality ingredients. No box mixes for me, they are bland and dry disasters. For my birthday a friend got me a wonderful book, called Cake Ladies that is all about delicious cakes and the stories and women who make them. The author owns a bake shop in town so it's neat to be reading from a local chef. She also makes a salted caramel cupcake that is like heaven in your mouth.

Currently I don't have a lot of occasions that warrant making an entire cake, so I mostly just look at the beautiful recipes in this book and dream. But every now and then I just break down and have to make a cake. Sure I wish I HAD to run a marathon or eat a big salad, but mostly I just want to bake cake. Strangely enough I don't even want to eat that much of it, just bake it. Baking is very calming and cathartic for me. Baking is much different from cooking, baking cannot be rushed and the ingredients must be exact.
In general I like fruit desserts, so when I saw this recipe for banana cake I knew I found something great. Basically it's punched up banana bread with a cream cheese frosting. If you wanted to make a cake, but wanted something a bit different than the traditional chocolate or white cake, this is a easy all purpose cake that sings with flavor. The orange zest really bumps up the flavor and is the perfect compliment to the banana flavor. I may just have to start using orange zest in my banana bread. I rushed the decorating part of the cake, but there are lots of options. Most of the ingredients you should have in your pantry and this is a great way to use up ripe bananas while also making the people around you very happy! Hope you enjoy!
Very easy to make, just prepare batter
Pour into cake pan. Bake and enjoy! 

Banana Cake

The Goods: 
3 very ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe below)
Walnuts halves, for decorating

The Deal: 
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 x 2-inch round cake pan. In the bowl of the electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the bananas, granulated sugar, and brown sugar on low speed until combined. With the mixer on still on low, add the oil, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and orange zest. Mix until smooth.

2. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. With the mixer on low, add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in the chopped walnuts. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, turn out onto a cooling rack and cool completely. Spread the frosting thickly on the top of the cake and decorate with walnut halves.

Cream Cheese Frosting: For one 9-inch cake
6 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups sifted confectioners sugar

Mix the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on low speed until just combined. Don't whip. Add the sugar and mix until smooth.
This cake has been Kirstin Approved. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fancy Mac and Cheese? Oh yes.

Hot Damn if I don't feel fancy every time I say Gratin. This dish is simple to make, and can be as fancy, or as simple as you want. I chose to make my own sauce because it was Saturday and I had the time. Feel free to use store bought sauce, just pick out a good quality one. I loved the smoky flavor the Sofrito added to the dish, but again it's up to you how complicated you want to get, jarred sauce saves you a good amount of time. I used goat cheese because I ran out of parmesan, but again this is a flexible dish, so use cheese you know and love. I love dishes that make it easy to eat vegetables, and since its similar to mac and cheese this is wonderful to serve to both kids and adults.

Penne and Cauliflower Gratin with a Spicy Tomato Cream Sauce

The Goods: Serves 4-5 as main dish
1/4 cup goat cheese or parmesan
1 small cauliflower (about 4 cups), cut into small florets
1/2 pound whole wheat penne
1 1/4 cups chunky Sofrito or store bought marinara sauce
1 cup half and half or 2% milk
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 cup finely chopped basil or parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil

The Deal: 
1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Drop in the cauliflower and cook five minutes, or until just tender. Scoop it out with a strainer and drop it into a 2 1/2 quart casserole. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Drop the penne into the water and cook until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain it in a colander and shake to remove all moisture. Mix it into the cauliflower.

3. In a large bowl mix together tomato sauce, milk, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, cheese and salt. Pour the sauce into the casserole dish and toss well to mix the sauce, pasta and cauliflower.

4. Combine the bread crumbs and olive oil in a small bowl and mix until evenly moistened. Sprinkle all over the gratin. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until hot, bubbly and golden on top. Let it sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Excuse me? Is it Muffin:30? I thought so.

Breakfast. Such a wonderful meal when you have the time. I think Saturdays exist simply so you have plently of time to glide around your kitchen, scrambling eggs, roasting sweet potatoes, and juicing an orange as to enjoy a slow and delicious breakfast. But many of us do not get several hours each day to enjoy a leisurely breakfast in the morning. Most of us have a general plan for the morning grub, which often consists of whatever we can shove in our mouths the quickest, or possibly just coffee. Everyone has heard breakfast is the most important meal of the day; it makes sense, it's the first thing we put in our bodies, which often dictates how we will feel by lunch. If we eat nothing or crap for breakfast, by lunch we feel awful, beginning a cycle of sluggish energy the whole day through.
I wanted to find something simple I could make on Sunday and have a week of breakfasts that were healthy, filling and required no thought. BOOM, healthy muffins to the rescue! These puppies are quick, simple and full of healthy stuff for those beautiful bodies we are so fond of. Wheat germ, chia seeds, and walnuts, to keep you full and energized, along with raisins and a blend of spices certain to entertain your palate.  I tried two variations so far, but really these are a great base for whatever you like. Last week I made them Sunday, then just grabbed one each morning on my way out the door. When I had a little more time I would slice one in half, toast it and throw a dab of butter on it for a delicious variation on the same ole treat. Hope yall enjoy them!
Wet Mixture
Combine Wet and Dry. Then fold in nuts and fruit
Spoon into muffin tin and sprinkle topping

Spicy Pumpkin Muffins 
Adapted from "Quick Vegetarian Pleasures"

This is a healthy base for many muffin varieties. I think I liked the banana blueberry the best, but try different ingredients. Other additions could include flaxseeds, prunes, lemon zest, and pecans. 
The Goods: Makes 12 muffins
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
4 tablespoons chia seeds
1 large egg
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1/2 cup grapeseed oil (any flavorless oil will do)
1/2 cup 2 % milk
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup walnuts, finely chopped

Topping (optional)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

For a DELICIOUS variation try Banana Blueberry Muffins:
Omit the pumpkin and raisins. Add 1 cup ripe bananas, mashed but not pureed when you would normally add the pumpkin. Also add zest from one orange at this step. Sub 3/4 cup fresh blueberries for the raisins, GENTLY folding into the dough last.

The Deal: 
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a regular sized muffin pan. In a large bowl throughly combine the first 10 ingredients. If using the topping, in a small bowl mix the cinnamon and sugar together.

2. In a medium bowl beat the egg. Beat in the brown sugar then stir in pumpkin puree, oil, and milk until well mixed.

3. Gently add the wet pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients, until just combined. Don't overmix. Stir in the raisins and all but 2 tablespoons of the walnuts. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups, then sprinkle remaining walnuts on top on the muffins. If desired sprinkle the topping over each muffin. Bake for 15-17 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let sit for 2 minutes before removing from the pan.
Serve warm or at room temperature. These can be kept in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Warm French Lentils

Healthy boyfriend made me a lentil heart!
I gotta be real with yall. I have not been in the blogging mood as of late. Im sorta having a idontfuckingknowwhatimdoingwithmylife!?!?!?!?! type week which is now turning into a month. Live in the moment they say. Do what makes you happy they say. Well how can you be present AND plan for the future? What if what you wanted to do with your life didn't make you happy? And what if you don't know what makes you happy or how to best serve this beautiful planet we are so blessed to live on?
Anyway as I have been spending my days organizing my stress away or breathing it out in yoga, I've not been puttering around much in the kitchen. I am hoping to do some work this weekend as to revamp the blog, but we shall see.

Also Ill fully admit I've become obsessed with pinterest and cannot stop looking at everything on that site all the time. I need help.

Getting back to food, Lentils are great for you, and everyone should eat more of them. Especially vegetarians who don't get their protein from meat, lentils and beans should be frequent guests on your plate. Lentils are legumes, so part of the bean family, and like many beans are full of wonderful things for your body. They have fiber, iron, protien, Vitamin B, and many other wonderful nutriets. If you are like me, it's easy to eat the same type of bean all the time. I eat black beans like they are going to stop growing them, and while black beans are great for you, variety is the spice of life. Of at least I get sick of food, and gotta change it up. Healthy Boyfriend can eat the same things for weeks on end, but I do not have that ability. I require change.
I LOVED this recipe. I will definitely use more vegetables next time, probably more carrots and add sweet potatoes, and I would love to figure out a way to use the turnips and onion instead of just discarding them (or composting if you can!). The dijon vinaigrette was outstanding, and made the lentils pop with flavor. This was a simple meal with loads of flavor. Good for a rainy day when you want easy, while still elegant.

Vegi prep, get a boyfriend to do it if possible. 
Saute carrots and leeks
Boil vegis and lentils
Prepare your vinaigrette
Warm French Lentils
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa's "How Easy if that"
Get a pretty spoon and serve it up!
If you eat meat, throw some spicy sausages in this dish at the end. Be sure to get green lentils, as cooking time varies depending on the color of lentil.
The Goods: Serves 4 to 6

The Lentils:
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 leek, white and green parts, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 carrots, scrubbed and 1/2 inch diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup French green lentils
1 whole onion, peeled and stuck with 6 whole cloves
1 white turnip, cut in half
1 teaspoon unsalted butter

The Dressing:
1/4 cup good olive oil
4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

The Deal: 
1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saute pan, add the leeks and carrots, and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for an additional minute. Set aside.

2. Meanwhile place the lentils, 4 cups of water, the onion with cloves and the turnip into a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, add the leeks and carrots, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are almost tender. Remove and discard the onion and turnip and drain the lentils. Place them in a medium bowl and add the butter.

3. While the lentils are cooking, whisk together 1/4 cup olive oil, the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper. Add to the lentils and stir well. Allow the lentils to cool until just warm. Serve warm, add additional salt and pepper as desired.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Granola...........Wait for it........BARS!

It's a mountain of nutrition!
I love discovering a recipe for something I would have never even thought of making. Of course it make sense, granola bars are just oats and whatever else you wanna toss in there. Problem is when you buy them at the store they are often filled with chemical junk and HFCS. But who doesn't want a delicious granola bar in the morning or in the afternoon for an energy pick me up? Well fret no more dear readers, you can make obscenely nutritious granola bars that taste better than any store bought variety.

First just look at the ingredient list. Talk about your nutrition powerhouse. Lets start with Oats: they are full of fiber, and specifically a type of fiber called betaglucan that is proven to help lower cholesterol. Studies have also proven that it may help lower heart disease. Oats are a whole grain so they are filling and nutritious, a great breakfast food, and/or snack to have on the move.

Then there is wheat germ. I know, why am I telling you to eat something with germ in the title? Trust me it's great for you. When wheat is hulled it's separated into parts and the wheat germ is the most vitamin and mineral rich part of the wheat kernel. In fact the germ is the embroyo of the wheat plant that will eventually be used to nourish the new wheat plant. And the germ is also completely removed when they process white flour which is why white flour has so little nutriuents. Interesting right?!  Wheat germ is known most for being super high in B vitamins and fiber.
Important note: I bought UNTOASTED wheat germ, but many grocery stores only offer toasted. Be sure to notice which kind you are buying so you don't toast already toasted wheat germ, or vise versa forget to toast untoasted germ.

Chia Seeds are something I am making a big effort to use more in cooking, because they are tiny little nutrtion powerhouses. Two tablespoons of chia seeds contain 7 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and 5 grams of omega 3's. They are also rich in calcium, iron and magnesium. Chia seeds are tiny, flavorless and can be added to oatmeal, cookies, or even just water for a filling drink. I throw them in my smoothies and plan on increasing my use of chia gel as an egg or butter alternative in baking.

Almonds are full of healthy fats and also proven to help lower cholestrol and the risk of heart disease. They are one of the healthiest nuts you can eat. Prunes are full of vitamin A and beta carotene, basically these granola bars are squares of nutriet rich goodness.

Best of all they are easy as pie to make. Though that saying "easy as pie" is fairly annoying given pie can be pretty darn time consuming to make. It should be easy as scrambled eggs, or easy as ordering a pizza. Those things are easy, pie is not.

I made these adorable bars on Sunday and am still currently enjoying them as I sit here and write this. The fruit is chewy, the bar is flavorful but not sugary and the almonds add a lovely crunch. They get better after a day or two, so make them on the weekend and have a week of healthy bars to enjoy and share with friends.
And for any mom's out there, they have been kid tested and approved aka were even used to bribe kids to eat more vegetables. Muahahahahaha little do they know the bars are healthy for them! This also works on adults :) Seriously yall, makes these bars. I've heard many people preaching, promising, and just plain complaining about the desire eat healthier this year. Yours Truly included. Well, make these treats, and you'll be one step closer.
Oats, Sunflower seeds, Germ, and Almonds: toast them up
Place you butter sugar honey mixture in a pan
Melt it up
Throw everything in a bowl and stir 
Spread it on a pan. Parchment Paper is ESSENTIAL! (not pictured, doh moment)
Fruit and Nut Granola Bars
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa as well as Alton Brown's Granola Bars

Feel free to use any dried fruit you like, any combination that equals 1 1/2 cups. If you don't like sunflower seeds, coconut works as well. DO NOT forget to well grease your pan and use parchment paper. I forgot and spent a lot of time getting these bad boys out of the pan.

The Goods: Makes 20-24 bars
2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup prunes, chopped
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/2 cup dried cherries

The Deal: 
1. Butter a 9 x 9 baking dish, and line with parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place oats, sunflower seeds, almonds, and wheat germ (unless already toasted, check your package) on a large baking sheet. Place in the oven and toast for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes until lightly browned.

2. Once your sheet of oat mixture is ready, place toasted ingredients in large bowl. Lower oven temperature to 300. Heat the honey, sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a medium pot over medium heat. Cook until all the brown sugar dissolves. Remove pot from heat and immediately pour into the bowl of oat mixture. Add chia seeds, dried fruit and stir to combine.

3. Pour mixture onto the prepare baking dish, being sure to evenly distribute the oat mixture. Water your hands and light press the mixture into the pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool for at least 2 hours before cutting into squares. Serve at room temperature.

These can be kept in a airtight container for up to a week. They actually taste better a day after they are made.