Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Good local dining

Last night I had the pleasure of attending a dinner with a distinguished out-of-town guest, a distinguished colleague, and several of my favorite co-workers. I have heard about the restaurant we went to for years, but have never found a good enough reason to go -- it is a high dining kind of place. Their motto is:
"A Hint of Southern fare with a dash of French Cuisine."
 We started with appetizers -- olives and an amazing selection of cheeses for me, country ham jalapeno fritters for the others. That was followed by an amazing salad of local organic baby lettuces, roasted beets, walnuts, and blue cheese tossed with a light honey-cider vinaigrette. I was a little bit embarrassed how fast I ate my salad -- I was so hungry! 
The menu was slim pickings for vegetarian fare -- there were a number of seafood dishes, but I wasn't in the mood for fish or scallops (never a fave of mine). I discussed the situation with our serve and she suggested I allow the chefs to be creative. I did and found myself with a plate of yummy veggie sides -- in entree size portions. As I type this I am finishing up the leftover mashed sweet potato souffle, black bean cakes, roasted root veggies, & cauliflower and mushroom gratin.

If you ever have a chance to go to Five Senses, it is worth the time and money. The website does not have their most up to date menu, but you get the gist of what they create. 

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Peppers, pumpkins, and red beans

We declared today "FAMILY DAY!" This means we are headed to a local Pumpkin Patch and Farm this afternoon. The weather is G-O-R-G-E-O-U-S, highs in the upper 70s! We will need sunscreen for sure! We are so excited for G to see real tractors and pet baby goats. Batteries are charged and camera cards are emptied in anticipation!

In anticipation of complete hunger and exhaustion that awaits later today, I am cooking up a huge pot of vegetarian red beans (New Orleans style). This is a "tried & true" recipe for me, and I have posted about it before. I made a few changes to my changes this morning -- I didn't have any carrots and couldn't go to the store (and didn't want to!), so I sorted baby carrots out of a bag of frozen veggies and used those in the saute. I also used pickled garlic cloves because we are out of fresh. The pot smells wonderful and I am looking forward to dinner when we get home tonight!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A grown-up meal

When I stop to think about what I eat  for dinner most nights, well, I am sad to say it is "nothing" or "cereal." Between teaching late, feeding and bathing G, and getting him to bed, I am usually too tired to do much in the kitchen. Last week, I decided I really wanted salmon. We had asparagus and potatoes. Thursday was a light day for me at work, so I picked up a really nice looking piece of fish at Publix, picked up G, then headed home. Of course, dinner wasn't until after G was in bed, but it was well worth the wait. I originally thought I would make mashed potatoes, but that plan quickly went south -- no time and I have no idea where my hand mixer is. So, we settled for baked (with butter and LF sour cream, yum!), and oven-roasted asparagus (super quick and tasty). I used a new recipe from the September 2010 issue of Cooking Light.  My two changes -- I didn't use the regular chili powder, and used avocado honey instead of maple syrup (it was all we had -- a souvenir from California). I had to bake my fish for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees F in addition to broiling. I like it cooked all the way through.

Photo: John Autry; Styling: Cindy Barr
Maple-Glazed Salmon (from Cooking Light, Sept. 2010)

Other Time: 20 minutes minutes
Yield:  4 servings (serving size: 1 fillet)

1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 (6-ounce) Alaskan salmon fillets
Cooking spray
2 tablespoons maple syrup

1. Preheat broiler.
2. Combine first 6 ingredients; rub spice mixture evenly over flesh side of fillets. Place fish on a broiler pan coated with cooking spray; broil 6 minutes or until desired degree of doneness. Brush fillets evenly with syrup; broil 1 minute.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Three Sisters Nachos

Many of the ancient civilizations of the Americas relied on maize, beans, and squash as staple crops and dietary foundations. All three are domesticated plants native to the Americas -- with the most likely origin in Mesoamerica. There are so many foods and dishes that maize is a part of. Add beans and squash, and no wonder they have been called the New World Trinity.

I am watching my Florida State Seminoles compete against the Miami Hurricanes -- so a plate of Three Sister Nachos seems appropriate. These are not your typical pub grub. These are nachos that are mellow at their roots, but spiced up with chipotle pepper and Tabasco sauce (the chili pepper is also native to the Americas), these become gourmet bar cuisine.

I roasted a very large (ca. 3-4 lbs) butternut squash, cooked a pot of black beans (always from scratch) with a couple of bay leaves earlier in the day. These came together super quick.

Tortilla chips (made of maize, of course)
shredded cheese of your choice (I used extra sharp cheddar, hand shredded gives better melting characteristics)
1 1/2 cups cubed roasted squash
1/2 cup cooked black beans (pinto or adzuki would also be very good here)
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed and heated
cumin, to taste
kosher salt, to taste
black pepper, to taste
ground chipotle pepper, to taste
diced avocado
sour cream

Layer the tortilla chips on a paper plate or other microwave safe plate. Scatter shredded cheese over the chips. Microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds (depending on your microwave, may take more or less time).

Scatter black beans on top of melted cheese. Sprinkle with cumin, black pepper, and salt.
Scatter cubed squash on top of beans. Sprinkle with additional cumin (if desired), black pepper, salt, and chipotle pepper.
Scatter heated corn kernels and diced avocado on top. Place several dollops of sour cream on in middle and around sides. Serve with hot sauce of your choice!

 ** Apologies again for the low res picture. I cannot find the cord to my camera so am using my phone!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Hoot Owl Cupcakes

We missed the birthday of one of G's daycare teachers -- I feel bad because I always try to bring them a treat for their birthdays. I decided we should make cupcakes for Mrs. C, but I wanted something different and not too difficult to make (since I am supposed to be working on any one of 5 papers that are due in the next week!). I came across a link to these on a blog, they are from the Land O' Lakes website. I used the cream cheese frosting recipe from the original LOL post, but added a good dose of cinnamon for extra yum. The cupcakes are an amalgamation of recipes, but based on a banana cupcake recipe from Cooking Light. Here are the original recipes, I will post the cupcake recipe I used at the bottom.

Land O' Lakes Halloween Hoot Owls

Cooking Light's Banana Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

My Banana Cupcakes Recipe

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup mashed ripe banana
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 Tbsp ground flax seed
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 cup flaked sweetened coconut

3/4 cup chocolate chips 

Preeheat oven to 350°.

Beat the granulated sugar, butter, and 1 teaspoon vanilla at medium speed of a mixer until well-blended (about 3 minutes). Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana to sugar mixture, beating well. Add in ground flax meal, and mix until combined. Lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture.Mix well. Add coconut and chocolate chips, stir to combine.

Spoon batter into 12 muffin cups lined with paper liners. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

I used the cream cheese frosting recipe from the Land O' Lakes website -- I did add in a good dose of ground cinnamon (and it was worth it!). I then directed the cupcakes as directed. I used LifeSavers Butter Rum candies and semi-sweet chocolate chips for the eyes.

*These pictures were taken with my phone, so apologies for the poor quality!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Teacher Appreciation Week: Bittman's Coconut and Nut Chews -- Wow!

This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. Baby G's teachers love him and take good care of him during the work week, we try to show our appreciation often! Ms. Lara and Ms. Meagan love when I bring in baked goods and other homemade treats. So, I thought I would make them something yummy, but easy since most of my baking stuff is still packed up.
Baby G happened to pull our copy of "Food Matters" by Mark Bittman off the living room shelf the other day. I had previously earmarked a number of recipes, and "Coconut and Nut Chews" was one of them. I knew these would be good, they definitely sounded interesting. I did vary my add-ins slightly, and I recommend waiting the 30 mins before peeling them off of the parchment. I did not and half of the first one was left behind. I will likely package them in stacks with small squares of wax paper between them -- they are a bit sticky, but definitely good and worth repeating.

Coconut and Nut Chews
"Food Matters" by Mark Bittman (page 289)

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 cups chopped nuts
4 egg whites, lightly beaten until just foamy
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch salt

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients and mix well with a rubber spatula.
2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper (this I recommend).
3. Wet hands and make small balls about 1 Tbsp. in size, and put on prepared sheet about 1 inch apart.
4. Bake until light brown, about 15 mins. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack or at least 30 minutes. The keep well in a covered container for up to 3 days.

*Bittman notes, "as long as you keep the total volume (minus sugar and eggs) to 3 cups, you can make a 'kitchen sink' cookie that includes a bit of everything." I took him at his word.


1 cup sugar
1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup craisins
4 egg whites

First Saturday in October Lunch

I made homemade tomato soup with the last of the tomatoes. Cue the tears....
Grilled cheese sandwiches are the perfect counterpart to all that yummy tomato goodness. I decided to jazz up ours with caramelized onions (which I was making for another recipe, see below). I grilled the sandwiches in the same pan that I had caramelized the onions -- adding to their onion goodness. I think these sandwiches taste like a vegetarian cheese-steak. SO GOOD!

And finally, I made a house favorite -- Caramelized Onion Dip. This recipe is from Cooking Light, so you know it is tasty and not over the top on the fat and calorie charts. I have made this many times over the past 5 years and have never had leftovers. I love it best served with Snyder's of Hanover Butter Snaps pretzels (this is not an official endorsement of their product, it is truly my personal preference).  Of course good ol' wavy Lay's potato chips work well, too.

Hope you are enjoying this lovely fall weather!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dinner tonight

I managed to get home earlier tonight than usual, and with the beautiful weather we are having, was inspired to cook dinner that we could eat together.

I used Eating Well's recipe for Broccoli-Cheddar Chowder as a guide. I did not have a potato, but I had other veggies (zucchini, about 6 celery stalks, 2 carrots, onion, broccoli). I cooked the veggies in a wee bit of olive oil until some of the onions and carrots browned, then braised them with a cup of water (no stock available) to loosen up the browned bits. I then added the rest of the liquid (28 oz in all) and about 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, and simmered. I used regular Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese (hand shredded -- the best!), low-fat sour cream, and about 1/3 cup whole cream because I had some that needed using up. DELISH!

I also made mini-corn muffins to go with. Grabbing a Yazoo Brewmaster's Reserve on the way to watch Wipeout with dinner and hubby!

Mine mostly looks like this (from Eating Well's recipe page)!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Lasagna Florentine Roll-Ups

Florentine Roll-ups (recipe modified from San Giorgio pasta)

16 oz. box of uncooked lasagna noodles (I used whole-wheat)
4 cups (2 lbs) ricotta or cottage cheese (I used part-skim ricotta)
2 cups (8 oz) shredded cheddar cheese (I used mozzarella)
1 cup chopped fresh spinach (I used more like 4 or 5 cups)
1/2 cup sliced green onion (I used 1/2 a large sweet)
1 egg, slightly beaten
Salt and pepper to taste
3 cups (26 oz) tomato/spaghetti sauce

1. Cook pasta according to package directions; run under cold water to cool off. Drain, then lay separately on cutting board or piece of foil.

2. In large bowl stir together cheeses, spinach, onion, egg, salt and pepper (I also added in Italian seasoning mix).

3. Spread about 1/3 cup cheese mixture on each piece of pasta to within 1inch of end; roll up. Repeat with all noodles (I had approx. 16 noodles).

4. In bottom of baking dish (either one 13x9x2 or two 8x8) spread 2/3 cup tomato/spaghetti sauce. Place roll-ups seam side down in dish. Top with remaining sauce.
*At this point you can cover with foil and freeze the dish(es). Add cheese before baking. Bake at 350 for 45-90 minutes, if baking from thawed (45 mins) or frozen (90).

5. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and bake for 45 mins. at 350 degrees F.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Did you know?

That you can cook hot cereal in the rice cooker? I just made Bob's Red Mill 10-grain cereal mix in my rice cooker. I used a ratio of 2:1 (2 parts water to 1 equal part cereal). It was done in less than 15 minutes. No standing at the stove. No stirring. Just done. LOVE IT!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Freezer Eating!

I spent Tuesday doing fieldwork, which meant I was really tired and hungry by the time I picked up the boy from daycare, stopped at the store for some essentials and made it home. Fortunately, we have plenty of good and tasty food in the freezer! I was able to make a quick stop by the house before heading to daycare, so I was able to turn on the oven and pop in one of the pans of enchiladas. It was so nice to come home to a meal that was hot and just waiting to be devoured!

Now I am dreaming of the day when I have an oven that can be programmed to refrigerate the dish and then start cooking it in time for dinner. I am sure there must be something like that out there, but probably not affordable at this point!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Weekend Freezer Cooking -- 9.11 and 9.12

The further into the semester we get the crazier and more hectic our schedules become. It is so easy to let nutrition fall to the wayside (it usually lands right next to exercise, the first to fall) during these times, that I always feel the need to take a stand. I know through careful and casual self-observation that I am a better person -- mentally, physically, and emotionally -- when I eat healthfully. Freezer Cooking is my stand against junk eating. Last fall my sister and I spent a glorious Fall Break weekend cooking, cooking, and cooking some more. We made no less than 16 different recipes in large enough quantities to stock up both our freezers for the second half of the semester. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get together to do it again, so I had to take matters into my own hands. Our old freezer (7+ years) was on the fritz so we bought a new one. It seems smaller on the outside, but overall is the same or slightly bigger than the last one. I love that it has a lock, power light, and temperature controls all on the outside! I know, I am a freezer nerd!

I am hoping that these meals and staples will get us through the next few weeks until there is time to replenish the freezer again. I will list here what I made and provide links to recipes that have them!

Lasagna Florentine Roll-ups -- I have been wanting to make these for 7 years (according to the date on the recipe I have been saving). I used whole wheat noodles which I think is a wise choice as they can stand up to all the handling, freezing, and cooking.

Pinto Beans -- nothing special or fancy. I just cooked up a big pot (with a few bay leaves) so I can freeze in gallon bags. Beans of all shapes and sizes are a huge staple for us.

Bread Machine Cinnamon Rolls -- I really wanted to have these made for this morning, but I was out of AP flour, so I now have two pans in the freezer -- ready for when the urge hits next!

Oatmeal Pancake Mix -- this is my sister's favorite mix and it is ingenious in that you keep it in the freezer and use as needed. You mix 1 cup of the mix with 1 cup buttermilk and 1 egg, and voila! awesome pancakes!

Homemade Yellow Cake Mix  -- I made this today so I can use it in this recipe (Coconut Tres Leches Cake) for a potluck dinner I am attending later this week.

Enchilada Casserole, Two Ways. I made up a recipe for this. One pan is a layered enchilada casserole using a mix of kasha/spinach/cream cheese/taco seasoning alternately layered with corn tortillas, red sauce, pinto beans, and shredded monterey jack cheese. The other is more traditional in that the enchiladas are rolled (filled with either the kasha mix and cheese OR freshly roasted peppers from our garden and cheese). The latter is being eaten tonight!

Sesame Sprinkle -- thank you Mark Bittman!

Okra Ratatouille  -- basically a ragout of fresh okra, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and pickled garlic. SO GOOD!

I still have a few more things I want to make but ran out of time. Oh well, maybe in a few weeks!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A great recipe for Spring's Fickle Ways

After a crazy week of intense spring weather (The Great Nashville Flood [the pic at right is the very small amount of standing water in our side/back yard - nothing compared to the north of us], near freezing temps, 80's during the day) and end-of-the-semester exams and general madness, we were all in need of some R&R. Friends of ours invited me to a casual spring dinner last week. I knew the hosts were grilling chicken and salmon (and this is the man that grills salmon so fantastically I actually crave it). I knew there would be ample dessert. I knew I had limited time as I was a single mommy for the week. What on Earth could I make? I knew where to turn for help -- enter Kickpleat over at Everybody Loves Sandwiches.
I did a little searching of her Recipes and decided to narrow it down to something with lentils. I had a package of pre-cooked Beluga lentils from Trader Joe's begging to be used up. I settled on this little number: Apple, Red Onion, and Lentil Salad. I did change it up just a wee bit -- for instance I used the black Beluga lentils, added a can of rinsed organic soybeans, and used green pepper. It was a hit at the dinner and made a ton. So much so that I had leftovers for lunch a couple of times this week. I topped with sliced avocado and feta -- Super Yum