Friday, July 26, 2013

happy friday!

it's finally friday. phew. it's been a long week. but time is slowly going by until moving day. but still got plenty of time to cook :) i think setting the oven on fire really did scare me away from baking! at least it's cool enough this week that i almost think about baking...almost.

this pasta dish was so simple to make. it comes from wholeliving which i think is a sub website of martha stewart. i upped the nutrients by using whole wheat pasta and used the grape tomatoes that i had gotten from costco (bulk produce really forces some creativity). i also did not put in dill weed or have white wine or the parmesan or fresh parsley. but this pasta sauce is so easy and delicious to make i wonder i ever used store-bought sauce. a nice kick with the red pepper flakes. i threw in the leftover smoked salmon at the last minute b/c i didn't want the sauce to taste super fishy.  

there were mushrooms hanging around in the fridge (i'm not particularly a fan of mushrooms but i wanted a side dish for the pasta and this just came to mind). i chopped the bottom part of the mushroom nice and tiny and mixed that in w/ the kale pesto then stuffed them real well and topped w/ slices of mozzarella. yum! baked in the mini convection at 350 for about 7 minutes (they cooked really fast in it).

in a totally different direction, i made tuna quesadillas last night. the avocados were getting rather ripe and the leftover mozzarella kept staring at me every time i opened the even though i would have preferred using the pepperjack (can't wait to use that big hunk of cheese!) i figured i shouldn't waste perfectly delicious cheese. 

Tuna Quesadillas
(serves 4-5 depending on how much your feedees like to eat)
5 medium whole wheat tortilla wraps (I used Mission 95% fat free for the fiber and protein)
2 cans tuna, drained (or grab some beans or grilled chicken)
1/2 bell pepper, diced
1/2 onion, diced
big hunk of cheese, your choice (shredded is easier)
salt and pepper to taste (or any other spices)
pico de gallo/salsa (or a combination of both)

Combine tuna, pepper, onion and salt and pepper. Heat a non stick skillet on medium high and warm tortilla (flip every 10 sec or so) then once both sides are warm (maybe even nicely bubbly) lay the cheese and tuna mixture. Cover the skillet with lid and bring heat to medium. Let the cheese melt then fold the tortilla in half and press down with a spatula or whatever is handy. Remove from the stove and cut in half. Serve with pico de gallo and guacamole!

have a great weekend!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

s5 restaurant

it's restaurant week right now in my county (if you're in the hoco area check out all the participating restaurants at the tourist website here). everything looks amazing, but on a college budget, those prices are far out of my range, so instead, i get to play w/ M&D's money and cook us all a meal worthy of a restaurant :)

i've had kale hanging around in my freezer since i don't know when. i try to grab a handful and throw it into my smoothies in the morning, but sometimes i don't want to be green with envy. it's still hot (but thankfully the storms last night brought some relief, the mid-80s feel downright comfortable!) so actually cooking was not something i was interested in. so that brings us to kale pesto!

i grabbed the recipe from sprouted kitchen and also nabbed her idea for the salad. i didn't even blanch the kale. i just let it defrost in my fridge and then zapped it in the microwave for about 15 seconds. i'm just getting that lazy! i toasted my walnuts in the mini convection we have and toss and serve. yum! i may prefer kale pesto over basil pesto, but i'd have to try them side by side (maybe it's the toasted walnut thing).
i wasn't sure how D would like the kale pesto. in his own words, "i don't like sauces" so i needed to find something else for the meal. grabbed some smoked salmon from costco and toasted some sliced ciabatta to have little salmon bites. welcome to the family restaurant. happy eating!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

summer is for salads

i don't know if anyone else noticed, but we seem to be experiencing a heatwave. i drive to and from work and i can feel my shirt sticking to me and i know once i get out of the car i'll have that very embarrassing back sweat spot going on. 
it's too hot to bake let alone turn on the stove, so that's where salads come in. the one above was super quick and easy and required no stove or oven, just a knife and cutting board. you can jazz it up w/ your own favorite toppings

Tomato, Avocado and Bean Salad

Throw together grape tomatoes sliced in half, avocado, your favorite beans (or grilled chicken chopped up), onions, and lemon juice with salt and pepper. Toss together. I put it all on a bed of arugula and enjoyed it immensely at work!

some other recipes i'm eyeing if this heatwave continues:
Happy melting! (stay hydrated, hang out in my favorite place- the library for some a/c)

Monday, July 8, 2013

empanadaaaa (also known as fire fire!!)

i almost wish i had gotten a picture of the oven after i had melted the microwave plastic cover thing in it when i was preheating the oven...but what should have been a rather straight forward foray into empanada making became a multi hour ordeal of how to scrap dried plastic off oven surfaces and glued to metal racks. but i'm hoping i'll never forget to check the oven again (and baking soda does put out a plastic fire :)

moving onto happier more yummy topics. luckily, we have a mini oven so while the burnt smells of plastic got to cool in the actual oven my empanadas could still get baked (although in baby batches of four...i suppose a sort of physical moderation on the speed of my consumption)

doesn't this one look like a spotted cow?? as i'm moving to vt in a little over a month, seems like a good omen! 
there was that adventure actually making the empanada shells a while back with s4. but buying premade are just so easy. i take my short cuts where i can. these babies are kind of like the stir frys i make for the parents- stuffed with any ol vegetable i find in the house. the great thing about empanadas (dumplings, momos, samosas or whatever form yours takes, is that it can really be stuffed with anything you want. the empanada shells are a pastry shell so it can handle all sorts of flavors, as you'll see later with a sweet version).

this recipe came from the mexican food blog i found that i mentioned last time. loosely adapted but i liked all the spice ideas she had (along with some of my own add-ins).

Tuna and Veggie Empanadas (makes about 13*)
adapted from Pati's Mexican Table

Olive oil (for skillet)
3/4 c chopped onion
1 T minced garlic, or to taste
2 handfuls kale, chopped (w/o stalk)
1 c frozen mushrooms, thawed with water remaining
1 ear of steamed corn, kernels removed
1/2 c black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/4-1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp sea salt, or to taste
1/2-1 tsp cumin
1/4-1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 T dried parsley
2 cans 5 oz chunk light tuna in water, lightly drained
2 T salsa, just b/c i had it leftover

To make empanadas
1 packet Goya empanada discos (containing 10)
1 egg

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Saute the onions and cook until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about another minute. Add the kale, mushrooms and black beans and cook out the water. Add the tuna and salsa (or chopped tomatoes) and then all the spices. Cook until soft. Taste for salt. My mix was dry but if you add tomatoes and really let it cook down you will have something more mushy and moist.

Brush the egg (I just had the yolk, I used the egg white at breakfast) around the edges of a disco and then scoop 1/4 cup of the filling into the middle. Press it to fold over the circle and seal the edges of the empanada with the tines of a fork until sealed. If baking immediately preheat oven to 350F and brush the tops of the empanadas with the egg. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. If not using immediately, lay out the empanadas on a tray not letting them touch and freeze until solid then transfer to a bag.

*I realize the goya comes in packs of 10, and yes, it is obnoxious to have to buy another set of 10 just to make 3, kind of like having an odd number of hot dogs to hot dog buns, but based on the ingredients i used i had this many, so feel free to decrease any vegetable or ingredient you're not wild about, b/c if not, you'll buy more empanada shells and think you actually need 2 more sets and then the craziness never ends.

another savory version to test out. i actually preferred the tuna one over this one, but M&D both voted this one as their favorite (i swear if i put cheese in anything my mother will absolutely gobble it up).

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas 
Makes 10

1 large sweet potato (mine was 0.95 lbs)
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 c onions, chopped
olive oil
garlic, to taste
salt, to taste
1 tsp dried cumin
1 tsp dried chili powder
1/4 c shredded pepperjack cheese

10 empanada shells, defrosted
egg wash (egg + 1 T water)*

Bake the sweet potato about 15-20 minutes at 400F until easily pierced by a fork. Unwrap and let cool then mash in a large bowl. While the potato cooks saute the onion in olive oil until translucent then add garlic and cook for a little longer. Add to mashed potatoes and add beans and spices. Combine and let cool.  Spread egg wash on the edges of the empanada shell then scoop 1/4 of the filling, fold over the shell and seal the edges together (with fork or fingers). Brush the outside with the egg wash.* Bake at 350F for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Or you can freeze them and not brush the egg wash across the outside. 

*making an egg wash as i learned from Pati's site makes the stuff last longer, but also gave that spotting browning (as in my cow) and sort of inconsistent browning. my batch with kale had just egg yolk brushed onto it.

a sweet empanada, the empanada shell can handle any sort of flavor. i'm thinking for D next time i'll go for a thanksgiving empanada and just put in shredded turkey, mashed potato, corn and maybe some peas or something. his tastebuds would probably handle that better ;) the empanadas are pretty high calorically (not that two won't be more than filling) but i made up for that by making all the fillings very much on the healthy side, including this sweet creation. which is probably why it came in last place for flavor for M. 

Apple, Cranberry and Pecan Empanadas
Makes 10

3 medium apples, peeled and chopped into small pieces
1/4 of an orange, squeezed for the juice
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon
dash of nutmeg, optional
heaping 1/4 c dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 pecans, chopped

Cook down the apples with the orange juice in a pot (about 15-20 minutes until tender). Let cool. Drain juice in a colander over a bowl.  Transfer cooked apples to a large bowl and mix in spices, dried cranberries and pecans.  Brush the edges of the empanada shell with egg wash. Scoop a small 1/4 cup amount of filling into the center of each shell. Seal the edges together with the tines of the fork and brush the outside with egg yolk or egg wash. Bake at 350 for about 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. 

happy baking and eating!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Guac me up!

feeling very cooking inspired these days. maybe b/c it's in the mid 90s and feels like the 100s so turning on the oven sounds like the last thing i want to do. 

anyway, it's a mexican kind of layout w/ variations on the taco and i think one of my all-time favorite breakfasts-huevos rancheros. these dishes are super quick and easy once you have all your ingredients. and you can make it more homemade or less time consuming based on your preference.

yes i know, i got too lazy to crop out all the background stuff, but really, i was too focused on getting the food ideas to you! this was the spread for make-your-own fish tacos (homemade guacamole, coleslaw, baked cod, corn tortillas and store bought salsa...this i wish i had made myself, but it was cheaper and easier, so i'll take some short cuts).

on the left is the fish taco, on the right is the tofu taco

guacamole (i just sliced the avocado and placed it on top of the taco)
2 ripe avocado (chopped, but not pureed, i like mine chunky)
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 steamed corn (slice down the side of the cob to get the corn kernels)
1/2 jalapeno pepper, diced
salt and pepper to taste
i forgot to buy a lime and my parents don't like cilantro, both of which i would have loved

coleslaw for the fish tacos
3 c shredded green and purple cabbage
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 bell pepper, diced
~1/2 tsp salt
~1/2 T sugar
~ 2 T white vinegar
Toss everything together and let it marinate for as many hours as possible

coleslaw for the tofu tacos (which everyone agreed they liked better) was from pioneer woman cooks (of course)

other ingredients to top with: raw onions, black beans, salsa, etc. the great thing about tacos is that they are so versatile and whatever ingredients you like

btw, i baked the cod for about 15 minutes after lightly coating in cumin. tofu was pan "fried" with cumin and chili powder
so now that you have all these wonderful ingredients prepped and leftover, what to do with all the yummy ingredients- make huevos rancheros. slight detour with this one. it is a corn tortilla topped w/ a runny egg (a must!), black beans and salsa, i also added hash browns, leftover guacamole and raw onions. enjoy!

oh, and i almost forgot, this blog/show/recipe person i stumbled upon today, everything looks absolutely delicious and easy (my two requirements of any recipe), check out pati's mexican table. the great thing is she breaks down all her Mexican foods and the ingredients along with a dash of history and culture. i think the first thing i'll try to make is an adaptation her empanadas.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

dessert explosion!

this is quite possibly the most i've ever baked in one's a little over the top when i'm just hit with the inspiration to bake this much. but enough chit chat, happy dad's day (most of these were for him). and on to the yummy stuff!

Blueberry Yogurt Loaf 
(adapted from smitten kitchen)
makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 c + 1 T all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 c plain yogurt
1 c plus 1 T sugar
3 extra large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 c olive oil
1 1/2 c frozen blueberries
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper. Grease and flour the pan.
Sift together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, and salt into 1 bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 cup sugar, the eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and oil. Slowly whisk the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Mix the blueberries with the remaining tablespoon of flour, and fold them very gently into the batter. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50 (+) minutes, or until a cake tester placed in the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Meanwhile, cook the 1/3 cup lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in a small pan until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is clear. Set aside.
* Comes out very wet/dense. Not sure how I feel about that. Would be great with the lemon flavor but didn't have lemons on hand. Or spread with lemon curd. 

Oatmeal Cranberry Chocolate Chip cookies
(from Ocean Spray)

1/2 c + 2 T (1 stick and 2 T) butter, softened
2/3 c brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c old-fashioned oats
1 1/2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 5-oz Ocean Spray Craisins
2/3 c semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375F. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs mixing well. In another bowl, combine oats, flour, baking soda and salt. Slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture. Stir in craisins and chocolate chips. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cool.

* Would taste better without chocolate chips and nuts in their place

Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Cookies
(from SugarHero)

1 1/3 c all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 c chocolate hazelnut spread (like Nutella)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 c chopped toasted hazelnuts
2/3 c semi sweet chocolate chips

To toast hazelnuts:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Coarsely chop 1/2 c filberts and place on baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10-15 min, lightly tossing throughout. Let cool.

For cookies:
Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a larger bowl cream the butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, sugar, and brown sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Slowly mix in flour until just combined and then add hazelnuts and chocolate chips.

Scoop small spoonfuls onto cookie sheet, bake until lightly golden about 10 minutes. They will smoosh and spread but if tiny not too bad.

Makes  about 3 dozen cookies.

*These are sweet cookies and are very thin on the crunchier side.  

Olive Oil-Basil Cornmeal Cake with Strawberry sauce
(adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)

1 c all-purpose flour
1/2 + 1/3 c yellow cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4  c granulated sugar
1/2 c skim milk
1/2 c olive oil
1 T dried basil
1/2 T sparkling sugar

Strawberry Sauce recipe
2 c frozen strawberries, thawed
1 T granulated sugar
1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 375F. Grease and flour a 9" cake pan, set aside. In a medium bowl combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt. Set aside.  In a large bowl, combine eggs, sugar, milk and olive oil. Mix dry ingredients and basil into wet mix and pour into prepared cake pan, spread evenly. Sprinkle with sparking sugar. Bake about 30 minutes. Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes and then remove cake from pan. Cool cake completely and when serving top w/ Strawberry sauce.

For the sauce, combine strawberries, sugar and balsamic vinegar until smooth. Cover and chill for up to 24 hours.  
*This one comes out very cornbready, might be b/c i put in too much cornmeal. but w/o the sugar would make great cornbread for thanksgiving.

still with me??? sugar rush hasn't gotten to you yet? just one more and it's my favorite of the bunch!

Soft and Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 c (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 c shortening
1/2 c white sugar
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 T water
1/4 c molasses

Icing (optional)
1 c powdered sugar
1-2  T water
splash vanilla

Preheat oven to 350F. Line baking sheets w/ parchment paper or silpat. In a medium bowl mix all dry ingredients (flour through cloves). Set aside. In a large bowl cream butter, shortening, white sugar, and light brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg, water, and molasses until combined. Slowly mix in dry ingredients until combined. Cover and chill for at least one hour. Roll dough into desired size (I went with about a 1/2 T size) and flatten hand (will stick completely to the bottom of a glass cup) and place about 1/4" apart on cookie sheet. Bake for about 7 minutes. Remove and cool. Prepare frosting if desired by mixing powdered sugar, water and vanilla and frost.

*She's not lying when she says you have to make these cookies ASAP. If you are a ginger cookie fan these are amazing. Soft and chewy, gingery and molassy. By far my favorite gingerbread cookie yet.

Friday, June 14, 2013

easy cooking: mac 'n cheese

i'll tell you a secret, I absolutely love the boxed macaroni and cheese mix. the day before I flew out for india I made myself a box. it'd been years since I had it as a child and it still tasted as good as I remember. maybe it's a childhood thing, but I much prefer the box mix over homemade. the inner processed child in me :)

this recipe is as easy as it gets and as great way to throw in vegetable produce in the fridge or freezer that's been hanging around too long. plus, if you make extras, perfect for lunch the next day at work! this can be modified to your taste so if you love sausage or ham or peas and squash feel free to cook it up and toss it in. if you want cheesey goodness throw in shredded cheese while the macaroni is still hot and melt it in all nice and oozy.

Everything in the kitchen mac 'n cheese
Serves 4

1 box macaroni and cheese mix
2 c broccoli, chopped
2 handfuls kale, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
handful grape tomatoes (throw these in last to sauté briefly)
1/4 c fat free milk
1/2 c ricotta cheese
1 can tuna, drained
some cannellini beans
1 tsp red pepper flakes
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
any other spices you might like (I added sriracha to my bowl)

This is very much an add what you have/what you like recipe. Bring a pot of water to boil and toss in macaroni noodles and cook as directed on the box (usually around 7-10 minutes). While the noodles cook, sauté the veggies with garlic and olive oil. When the noodles are cooked, drain, toss back into the pot you boiled them in, pour in milk, cheese powder pouch (if processed powdered cheese makes you squeamish feel free to make a rue and cheese sauce) and at this point I threw in the ricotta. If you put in any other shredded cheeses you can also keep the pot on low heat to get it all to melty goodness. Mix in red chili pepper flakes, the tuna and the veggies. Spice as you wish and serve!
other great add ins: onions, frozen peas, zucchini, ham, more beans, pureed cauliflower, spinach, etc.