Monday, May 27, 2013

Pasta with Alfredo Sauce and Broccoli with Almonds

Alfredo sauce is a favorite around here, and I have a super simple recipe (only 4 ingredients!) that I have finally mastered so that it consistently turns out well (it took me a few tries to get it right!)

I melt half a cup of butter in two cups of cream and sprinkle generously with garlic powder.  I use a whisk to beat it frequently until it comes to a boil.  Then I turn the heat down until its simmering and toss in grated Parmesan cheese -- anywhere from half a cup to one cup, depending on my mood (in a pinch, I've even used mozzarella cheese -- still tasty!)  I let it simmer and whisk it frequently until it's thick and creamy.

Meanwhile, I get the pasta cooking.  

This time I used TruRoots Organic Ancient Grain Gluten-Free Penne Pasta.

Simply toss the pasta with the sauce.

I typically serve this pasta with broccoli.  This time, I tried broccoli with slivered almonds.

Steam the broccoli slightly, only for about 5 minutes to soften it.  Then transfer to a deep skillet.  Pour in a 1/4 cup of dry white wine, then sprinkle with garlic powder, parsley, salt, pepper, and drizzle a little olive oil.  

Cook until the liquid is evaporated and the broccoli is hot.  Remove from heat, then add the almonds and toss.

Mmmmm!  Very simple but so delicious. :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Peanut Butter and Banana Oatmeal Squares

Got overripe bananas?

Tired of the same old banana bread you resort to every time you have overripe bananas?

I was.  So I decided to try something new for breakfast.

Peanut Butter and Banana Oatmeal Squares

  • 1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used crunchy!)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tablespoons of ground milled flaxseed (optional)
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl, then spread evenly into baking dish.

Bake 20-25 minutes, or until edges are golden brown.

Let cool, then cut into squares.

This is delicious all by itself, but I recommend enjoying it topped with vanilla yogurt and fresh sliced bananas.  And bacon.  Always bacon.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Shepherd's Pie and Whoopie Pies

There are a lot of different ways to make shepherd's pie.  The first time I came across a recipe for it in a cookbook I have, it said to "throw in whatever leftovers you have."  This particular lady would just toss together whatever odds and ends she had in her fridge.  Looking up recipes online, you'll find several small differences. Some use cream, others use chicken or beef broth.  Some add cheese, others include Worcestershire sauce.  Some use ketchup, and others include oil.  Rachel Ray's recipe has 17 ingredients, while Alton Brown's has 21, and Martha Stewart's has only 9.  What they all have in common is that they are a meat pie with a mashed potato crust.

After a little experimentation, I landed on a simple, tasty shepherd's pie that my family loves.

I brown a pound of either ground beef, turkey, or pork (I prefer the pork), and then season it by sprinkling with onion powder, cumin, thyme, pepper, salt, oregano, nutmeg, ginger, basil, and sage.  Then I mix cooked peas, corn, and green beans in with the meat and pour it into a casserole dish.

Then I cover it all with mashed potatoes:

And I bake at 350 for an hour.

I forgot to take a picture of it when it came out of oven, but here's what it looked like fifteen minutes later:

Almost.  Gone.  It wasn't long before the kids cleared the whole pan.  It's not the fanciest shepherd's pie recipe out there, but it is so simple and it's something my kids always devour!  There are never leftovers.

For dessert, I made whoopie pies.

Whoopie Pie Cakes:

2 cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole milk
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 egg lightly beate
1 tsp vanilla extract

Warning: if your coconut oil is unrefined (like mine), these will have a detectable coconut taste.

Preheat oven to 350.  Line 2 large cookie sheets with parchment paper, or spray with non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk flour, sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth.  Drop 1 tablespoonful batter onto prepared sheet.  Repeat with remaining batter, spacing 1 inches apart (cakes will spread).  Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until cakes spring back when lightly pressed.  Cool completely on cookie sheets on wire racks.

Whoopie Pie Filling 

1/2 cup butter at room temp
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup marshmallow creme
1 tsp vanilla extract

Tip: You can make the marshmallow creme at home if you want to!  This is the recipe I used: DIY Marshmallow Creme.

Homemade marshmallow creme.

With mixer on high speed, beat butter, confectioners' sugar,marshmallow creme, and vanilla until fluffy.  Spread filling on flat side of half the cakes and sandwich together with remaining cakes.

Store whoopie pies in airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kale and Sweet Potato

I made meatloaf tonight and chose to serve a kale and sweet potato side dish with it.

It was so easy and really delicious!

I poured 1.5 cups of homemade vegetable broth into a deep skillet, then laid a big bed of kale leaves down and piled the chopped sweet potato on top.  I sprinkled salt and onion powder on top, then put a lid on it, brought it to a boil, reduced to a simmer, and let it go for about 20 minutes.

Really.  Really.  Yummy.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Black Bean, Rice, and Mango-Stuffed Squash

This is a kabocha squash; it is an Asian variety of winter squash.  Some people call it a "Japanese pumpkin."  I had never heard of it before, not until I was browsing through a cookbook that happened to mention how delicious it was.  The very next day I was at a local produce market and happened to notice the kabocha squash!  So I decided to buy it and try it out.

I cut them in half, removed the seeds, and laid them face down in a shallow bit of water.  Then put them in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, I mixed cooked rice, black beans, lemon juice, and parsley in a bowl.  After the squash had been in the oven for 20 minutes, I stuffed the rice mixture into each half and placed it back in the oven for another 30 minutes.

When they came out of the oven, I added fresh, sliced mango.

For the kids, I removed the rice and bean mixture from the squash and put it in a bowl, mixing chunks of squash in with it, so it would be less intimidating.

The kids were skeptical of a new food, (both the mango and the squash), but they liked it okay.  All three ate the squash without problem, but they did not like the mango.  I'm okay with that, because they at least tried it before saying they didn't like it.  After I removed the mango, they were able to clear their bowls.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Mediterranean Eggplant Fritters

I've been really uninspired in my cooking recently, but I'm trying to change that.  I picked out several recipes this week that use ingredients I tend to neglect - hopefully that will make things more interesting and inspire better meals!

First up is eggplant.  

I love eggplant!  And yet, I rarely buy it or incorporate it into my cooking for some reason.

First, I peeled and diced the eggplant.

Then I combined the eggplant with water and fresh squeezed lemon juice in a large saucepan.  I brought it to a boil, then turned the heat down and let it simmer until the eggplant was very soft.

After the eggplant was very soft, I drained it and pressed it with a towel to remove any excess liquid.  Then I mixed it in a small bowl with garlic powder.  If you have fresh garlic, more power to you!  I didn't, so I used powder.

In a separate bowl, I mixed together flour, baking powder, salt, oregano, and basil.  I added the flour mixture to the eggplant and tossed to combine.

Next, I heated a thin layer of olive oil in a cast iron skillet.  I added the eggplant mixture one tabelspoonful at a time and fried the fritters until golden brown on both sides.

These were delicious and the kids loved them!  My only regret was that I didn't double the recipe!  We all could of easily eaten more.  You can serve these with plain yogurt, or what we chose to eat them with was marinara sauce.

Mediterranean Eggplant Fritters

1 eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup of water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons minced green onions
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup of flour
1 1/2 teaspoons basil
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
olive or grapeseed oil for frying

1. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  In a large saucepan, combine the eggplant, water, and lemon juice.  Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cook until eggplant is very soft (about 10 minutes).

2. Drain the eggplant and press out any excess liquid, then place in a small bowl.  Add the green onions and garlic, and mix well.

3.  In another small bowl, combine flour, basil, oregano, baking powder, and salt.  Add flour mixture to eggplant and toss to combine.

4.  In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat.  Add the mixture a tablespoon at a time, fitting as many fritters as you can without crowding them.  Fry the fritters and turn as needed until they are golden brown on both sides (about 2-3 minutes per side).  Transfer cooked fritters to a heat-proof platter and keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest.  Serve immediately!