Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Better the Second Day: Roasted Broccoli

This is a recipe that I made for dinner in February but am now just getting around to posting.  Broccoli is Husband Jeff's favorite veggie and I think it's ok but I don't want it all the time.  It's always fun to see how I can change it up to be even better.

Even if you really don't like fish I think you should try this recipe.  But if you're allergic, of course skip it!  You could probably substitute a bit of miso for the anchovy though, maybe a teaspoon or two.   And I don't remember it being spicy, so I probably either substituted Korean pepper flakes (gochujaru) which is not spicy at all, or I skipped the red pepper all together.

This roasting method is one I use often, you start with a foil-covered dish/container/baking sheet to let the veggies steam themselves at a high heat and then remove the foil for the rest of the roasting so the moisture evaporates and get the veggies browned a bit. 

Inspiration 

Cooking Light roasted broccoli with garlic and anchovy

You could easily make this dairy-free by switching out the butter with coconut oil or olive oil. I don't recommend skipping the anchovies though, they're going to add a savory saltiness. 

Ingredients

  • 6 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry thyme (it called for 2 tsp fresh thyme, but who has that?)
  • 2 tsp lemon peel (I used dried from Penzey's)
  • 3/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 2 anchovy filets (I used a couple squirts of anchovy paste in a tube)
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Directions

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  

Toss the broccoli florets with the tablespoon of olive oil and pour out onto a sheet pan and cover tightly with foil.  Bake for 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix together the rest of the ingredients for the sauce except the garlic.
Anchovy sauce.
Remove the foil, add the garlic to the broccoli and cook uncovered for an additional 6 minutes.
Broccoli and garlic

When the broccoli is tender, remove from the oven and toss with the anchovy sauce. Serve.
All tossed together.

Verdict

Roasting your veggies is pretty much always the way to go, it might take a little longer than steaming or the microwave, but it produces much better flavors.  This was pretty good at dinner the first night, but totally amazing the next day after it soaked up the sauce.  The flavor was a lot more buttery and rich tasting as leftovers. And if I remember right, I chowed all of the leftovers by myself since I come home for lunch pretty much every day. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of April 14

Week in Review 

The pizza superstar skillet made with brown rice and quinoa was great. Like most casserole type dishes, it's not the prettiest, but it tasted really good.  The recipe will be coming soon. 
Pizza Superstar Skillet

On Wednesday my friend Renae drove up from Dubuque, Iowa, and we had I had lunch at my favorite sushi place, Restaurant Muramoto. I love sushi at this place so much that I've already asked Husband Jeff and our friend Buddha if they'll meet me for lunch there either this week or next.  Husband Jeff doesn't like sushi, but I've heard their entrees are great.
Me and Renae.
On Wednesday night my brother-in-law Scott was in town so we had dinner with him at Husband Jeff's parents' house. I made green beans with fennel and feta cheese, I liked it a lot but wish I had bought a bigger fennel bulb since I've found I really like fennel. Mother-in-law Cathy made an awesome chicken pot pie.
Green beans with fennel and feta
Sonny D's swimming lessons are going great.  He does pretty much everything except put his face in the water to blow bubbles, but I think that's because he forgets to blow and always ends up sucking up a bunch of water.  This week at Chocolate Shoppe Sonny D had a junior scoop of chocolate peanut butter cup ice cream and I ordered a monkey tail (banana dipped in chocolate and then frozen).  We ended up sharing the monkey tail since Sonny D really likes chocolate.

I had a really busy Friday.  After dropping off Sonny D at preschool, I got a pedicure, browsed exercise clothes at Old Navy, ate leftover pizza superstar skillet in the car, went to the volunteer sale at the Half-Pint resale event, went shopping at Marshall's (new exercise clothes!), headed back to the sale to work my volunteer shift, and then went to Husband Jeff's parents to pick up Sonny D.  I got some great stuff at the sale, Sonny D requested a lawn mower, so I had to get one of those.  I also bought him a Sit-n-Spin, a kid-sized camp chair (with a cup holder!), a plastic pizza set, a couple pairs of leggings (he prefers them over regular pants since they're super comfy), a pair of sandals, and a pair of aqua socks/water shoes.  The lawnmower was definitely a great purchase for $5, he absolutely loves it.  He insisted on going outside to "mow" in the back yard even though it was rainy and cold all weekend.  But the sleeper hit is the aqua socks!  He put them on, wore them to bed that night and constantly for the next couple of days. I had never imagined he would love them so much. 

This Week

This week isn't busy at all.  Sunny D doesn't have preschool for the week because it's spring break. Luckily Husband Jeff's parents live nearby and will watch him.

I need advice!  This is the first year we're going to do an Easter basket and I don't know what to do in reference to the Easter Bunny!  What are everybody's traditions?  What did you grow up with?   All I remember is that the Easter Bunny hides a basket of awesome stuff for you.  Any suggestions for what to do for a three-year-old?  Sonny D liked finding candy canes hidden around the house in the days leading up to Christmas, so I'll probably hide plastic eggs around the house for Easter morning.  
  • Monday - We opened a jar of marinara sauce on Saturday so we're using the rest of the jar for pasta with red sauce for dinner.  Over lunch I prepped carrots, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts and we're going to roast them when I get home.
  • Tuesday - Another quick meal of pancakes, Canadian bacon, and scrambled eggs before I head out for cardio dance fitness class.
  • Wednesday - Premade chicken cordon bleu from our local meat market along with a bag of frozen Tuscan veggies with marinara.
  • Thursday - Husband Jeff will feed Sonny D chile-lime chicken burgers from Trader Joe's along with a a frozen bag of mac and cheese with broccoli since I've got  Zumba right after work.  After exercising, I'll meet up with them at the pool so I can help with the after-pool showering.  The men's locker room at the elementary school pool is super tiny and the women's is larger, so I'm going to clean up Sonny D while Husband Jeff maneuvers around all the other dads in the miniscule men's room.  And we'll go out for ice cream afterwards, like usual. 
  • Friday - hot dogs, corn, Trader Joe's frozen superfood pilaf (blend of quinoa, sweet potatoes, carrots, kale).  This is "Me & D" night.  Not sure what we'll do for entertainment, but I've heard the newly renovated downtown library is a lot of fun, so I might see if he wants to go there. 
  • Saturday - I'm going to be at Food Camp all day.  It's already sold out, so glad I bought my ticket early!  I'm most interested in the classes about the pressure cooker, canning, mindful eating, and fermented breakfast cereal (what is that??).  For dinner we're going to Glass Nickel Pizza to celebrate our friend Buddha's birthday (last Friday) and Husband Jeff's (next Wednesday).  
  • Sunday - My Mom invited us and Husband Jeff's parents over for Easter luncheon.  I haven't decided what to bring for a dish to pass, but right now I'm thinking glazed carrots.  For dinner we're having spring rolls, a few leftover home-frozen Asian meatballs, and a frozen bag of brown and wild rice with broccoli and carrots (might turn it into quickie fried rice). 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Recipe Win: Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

I know a pumpkin recipe is out of season for spring, but I made this recipe back in January and then was so busy that I couldn't finish writing it up. I think I made these as the dessert to our intimidating but fabulously successful beef tenderloin meal.

Inspiration

Cookies and Cups lightened up pumpkin cream cheese swirl bars

Ingredients

Cream cheese swirl
  • 1 (8 oz) block 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp water (I used French vanilla creamer because our milk was frozen (arg!) and I wanted to add more flavor)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (adding more flavor, no reason to leave it as plain cream cheese!)
cake 
  • 16 oz package angel food cake mix
  • 1 (15 oz) can pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon ( my cinnamon is strong so I only used 1/4 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp butter extract (optional)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray.

With a mixer, combine the swirl ingredients -- cream cheese, sugar, non-dairy creamer, and vanilla extract.  Beat until smooth and creamy.
Fluffy cream cheese mixture.

In a separate bowl, combine the dry angel food cake mix, pumpkin puree, water, pumpkin pie spice,  cinnamon, butter extract, and vanilla extract.  Mix until smooth.  

Pumpkin-y batter
You're going to make two layers of batter to ensure you get a good blend.  Pour half of the pumpkin mixture into the pan and add dollops of half the cream cheese mixture. Swirl gently with a knife a couple times to combine. 
Swirled first layer.
Do the same with the remaining batter, add the rest of the pumpkin batter on top and swirl in dollops of the rest of the cream cheese mixture. 
Swirled messy second layer
Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the cake part comes out clean (not coated in batter).
All done.
Another good indicator that it's done is when it slightly pulls away from the sides of the pan. 

Closeup of the edges pulled away. 

Verdict 

I loved this pumpkin bar.   My previous angel food bars turned out to be a bummer, they ended up really flat and not very good, so I was happy these actually worked out.  These were cake-like and a little dense with a wonderful swirl of cream cheese. So even though pumpkin is more of a fall flavor, if you're looking for a good dessert, make this!  And they are definitely bar format, denser than a cake.  

It would be neat to add some cocoa powder to the cake mixture to see if you could make a chocolate version. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Dip An Apple In It: Greek Yogurt Peanut Butter Dip

I thought this Greek yogurt peanut butter dip would be great to send along in Sonny D's lunches for the week along with some apple slices. I whipped this up for dinner on Sunday night and it was super quick and easy. 

Inspiration 

Family Fresh Meals Greek yogurt peanut butter dip
FitSugar creamy peanut butter dip

I combined the two recipes as I was mixing it to get what I thought was the right blend of ingredients and flavors. I could have used plain yogurt, but I thought vanilla would be a better choice.  And I don't have maple syrup called for in one recipe, but I do have honey. 

Ingredients

  • 6 oz vanilla Greek yogurt (one serving container)
  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1/2 Tablespoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  Taste and see if you need to adjust any flavoring. 

Creamy peanut butter dip.

Verdict 

We ate this for dinner with apple slices.  Sonny D liked it, but declined when I offered it for his lunch the next day.  Oh well.  We finished it off with another apple the next night. 

I don't care for yogurt at all, but this was pretty good.  I'd rather eat apples without it though.  It reminded me of that potluck salad of grapes in a creamy dressing with chopped nuts sprinkled on top.  I absolutely love that salad but I'm sure the original isn't the healthiest with all the cream cheese and sour cream.  This dip would be approximately the same thing, but I would leave out the peanut butter and switch the honey for brown sugar.  

Oh, you could add some cocoa powder or chocolate syrup to make a choco-peanut butter version, that might be really good.  I've also got some caramel syrup meant for flavoring coffee, that would be good with peanut butter as well.  Oh, and some chopped peanuts would be a great way to expand the peanut flavor. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Ten-Minute Enchilada Sauce for Chicken Enchiladas

Are you:
  • out of enchilada sauce but want to make enchiladas?  
  • too lazy to go to the store?  
  • an overachiever who is trying prove that you're a bad-ass kitchen ninja by making your own enchilada sauce? (I think this is the one most applicable to me, but also #2.)

Well, if any of those things above applies to you, here's the enchilada sauce I made from scratch on Sunday.  I wish I had a nicer chili powder for a deeper flavor, but I used regular McCormick chili powder that we use for chili.  Our grocery store didn't seem to have anything fancier and I couldn't use anything spicy for fear of Sonny D not eating it.  

Sonny D was my helper for this recipe, he did a great job being careful when stirring and didn't have any mistakes or injuries.  He also reminded me to "be careful!" when shredding the hot chicken, chopping the spinach, etc.

My enchilada filling was two chicken breasts grilled on the George Foreman grill and then shredded with two forks, a can of chopped green chiles, most of a can of petite diced tomatoes, some chopped spinach, a splash of enchilada sauce to keep it moist, and some shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  I like using strong-tasting sharp cheddar for cooking because it has more flavor than a milder cheese so I can use less of it.  You could fill your enchiladas with seasoned ground meat or roasted veggies.  Oh, I also like roasted veggies with scrambled eggs in enchiladas, an excellent breakfast dish.

Oh, and we prefer corn tortillas for enchiladas, not flour.

This sauce recipe made enough for 13 enchiladas, which filled an 8x8 and 9x13 pan.

Inspiration

All Recipes ten minute enchilada sauce

My Modifications

I used half as much oil because I didn't see a reason to use that much and you could probably make it without any oil at all.  And instead of self-rising flour I used white whole-wheat flour because that's what I had and I didn't think it needed the extra salt and baking powder in self-rising (pretty sure we're just looking for the thickening power of flour).  And when I looked in the pantry I realized I didn't have tomato sauce, so instead I used a 6 oz can of tomato paste and added more water until it looked right.  I added 1/4 tsp of salt to start, but added more later after tasting. 

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1/4 cup New Mexico or California chili powder
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce (or 6 oz can tomato paste with at least 1 additional cup of water)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion salt
  • salt to taste (at least 1/4 teaspoon)

Directions

Heat the oil in a medium-large skillet on medium heat and add the flour and chili powder and stir it with a whisk. 

Pulling out our ingredients.
The flavor is even better if you use Sonny D's favorite egg-shaped whisk. 
Whisking the flour and chili powder.
Add in the rest of the ingredients and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.  Taste and probably add more salt. 
Whisking up the sauce.
Sonny D carefully stirred.  I'm actually in too much of a hurry when I'm cooking so I tend to make a mess when I stir, so I would say he actually did a better job than me. 
 He's wearing a carpenter's apron around
his little waist and I was wearing my cooking apron.
Use a little sauce in your enchilada filling.  
One 8x8 pan of four enchiladas. 
Later I added shredded cheese and put it in the freezer to save for another day.
Fill and roll your enchiladas and place them seam side down.  Pour the rest of the sauce over your filled enchiladas. 
And one 9x13 pan of nine enchiladas. 

The baked enchiladas after we've ravaged them. I purposely left my burned oven mitt in the picture. 

Verdict 

It wasn't much work to make it since it was generally hands-off (aside from Sonny D's love of whisking) but I wouldn't say that it's better than canned.  I bet it's a lot better if you use a good chili powder though. Even if it didn't rock our socks off, it's nice to know you can make red enchilada sauce without going to the store.

I wish I had added even more salt, to me it seemed a little bland.   I have this problem about not adding enough salt, I'm afraid to add too much since I like saltier foods than my family.  Plus it might seem fine when you taste it plain since it's the only flavor in your mouth, but later I find that a little more salt when cooking would have added so much more.  I'm still trying to figure out the right amount. 

After all of this though, I have to say I actually prefer green enchilada sauce instead, so I'm off to bookmark some green enchilada sauce recipes. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Bits & Bobs

Applesauce As Replacement For Oil

Have you ever used applesauce instead of the oil in a recipe for baked goods?  I've done this for recipes in the past, but just the other day I read that you should add an extra ½ teaspoon of baking powder to make up for the loss of leavening power.  Why have I not heard that until just now??  Especially since I love cooking tips/advice and have read tons of them. 

Read The Directions!

I had a disappointment last week because I wasn't paying attention... I attempted to make bean soup in the slow cooker, but when we got home it didn't look right.  I tasted it and it wasn't done at all.  I forgot that bean soup needs to simmer to properly rehydrate those dry beans.  Last time I made it, it cooked in a pot on the stove on a weekend afternoon, which I had completely forgotten about. So a couple days later I got the soup on the stove in the morning to simmer for an hour and let it finish in the slow cooker all day.  It turned out fine, but that was really frustrating, especially since I was looking forward to soup for dinner that night.  We ended up having a frozen Jack's rising crust pizza instead, which made Husband Jeff happy.

I'm Currently Reading...

Right now I'm reading The Science of Good Cooking from Cook's Illustrated magazine.  This book is hefty but a really good source of information.  It's a good primer on why things cook the way they do but without being too in depth in the science and over my head.  I love books like this because I like understanding a recipe, mainly so I know how to modify it since I can't seem to make a recipe as written. 

Restaurant Incubator

Last week I read this awesome NPR article about a Dallas restaurant incubator.  Business incubators are pretty common and on the north side of Madison we've got a food business incubator called FEED Kitchens.  A restaurant incubator is a neat concept, it allows restauranteurs an opportunity to try their creative new business ideas to see if they'll work.  This could revitalize an abandoned area of town.  Plus I love the idea of several eateries all in one location, similar to the mall food court, but way classier!  it would be perfect for when you're going out with several friends but nobody can agree on where to go.   And it should hopefully attract others to the neighborhood, like artists.  Another grand vision the investors have is that the area will be set up with New Urbanism development in mind, a mix of commercial businesses and residential housing in a walkable landscape.  This isn't without it's detractors though.  The people that originally lived in the area are unwilling to let the developers come in and take everything over.  I understand their reticence, gentrification could push them out of the way, but it would probably be appreciated to have a nicer neighborhood with better amenities.  Here's an older-but-longer article from D Magazine if you want to read more details about it.  I would love to visit Dallas to eat at the restaurant incubator just to see the space and check out the restaurants that have made the cut.

So Much Cereal!

Yesterday I counted 12 unopened boxes of cereal at home!   I figure you've gotta get it when it's cheap and it's usually pretty cheap at Target, so when I was there last week I picked up a few boxes.  And this weekend the grocery store was having a 4/$10 special. You don't have to buy four boxes (unless specified) but I figure why not go for four, it lasts forever!  So now we have a lot of cereal hanging out.  Only a few boxes fit in our pantry at one time, so the rest is stacked precariously on the basement stairwell shelves Husband Jeff built for me a couple years ago, among the canning supplies, stand mixer, bread machine, etc. 

Smell My Hands!

Vanilla Creme Method hand soap. 
I love the Method seasonal foamy hand soaps.  I found the dulce de leche on clearance last fall and pulled it out right before our soup party last month and it smelled amazing.  That's finally gone so I replaced it with the vanilla creme scent for summer and it smells like yellow birthday cake!  Yum!  If you can find it, get your hands on it!  :)

Monday, April 7, 2014

Menu Plan: Week of April 7

This past week we had a delicious tropical dinner at Cafe Costa Rica using my discounted gift certificate. Only one gift certificate for Dobhan left before I'll allow myself to buy more!

Two Thumbs Up! I ended up making tuna melts on English muffin halves for dinner on Friday.  Sonny D liked them a lot.  Husband Jeff doesn't care for tuna or mayo, so he made his own turkey sandwich using Applegate turkey deli meat. We recently discovered Applegate natural lunch meats after my friend Aaron recommended their hot dogs and we really love their stuff. The turkey lunch meat was a bit bland but the ham is amazing and we can't wait to try more.  I've bought Applegate products at Target and Trader Joe's.

I think it's finally spring here in Madison. On Friday there was snow swirling around at lunch and after work, but things warmed up over the weekend. Saturday was warm enough that we only needed sweatshirts instead of coats. That threw Sonny D off though, he thought we had forgot about our coats and he was quick to point it out.  I had to reassure him we would be fine.

Menu Plan

  • Monday - Have you noticed that chicken breasts only seem to come in huge packages now?  It used to be that it was a little over one pound in one of those Styrofoam trays and nowadays it's hard to find anything under two pounds.  And the breasts are huge!  They're definitely not organic chicken, they would probably be a lot more reasonable if they were.  At the grocery store I recently bought a 2+ lb.package and figured I'd split it up.  On Sunday I made 9x13 and 8x8 pans of chicken enchiladas using the two moderate breasts and I saved the 1 HUGE breast for today's chicken wraps.  I'll cook it up in the ole George Foreman grill, put it in the big tomato-basil wraps that I just HAD to have, and add in a handful of salad greens and avocado. I don't really eat that many sandwiches (hardly ever!), so I have no idea why I felt the need to buy the wraps. 
  • Tuesday - I'm going out for lunch with some girls from work and we're having sushi. Yay! I love sushi but Husband Jeff doesn't eat it, so I try to get it with friends whenever I can.   For dinner I'm making up a dish I'm calling pizza superstar skillet.   It'll be brown rice and quinoa made in the rice cooker with onion soup mix (it's been hanging out in the pantry for a while, better use it up!), a bit of chopped spinach, chopped turkey pepperoni, pizza sauce, and shredded cheese.   
  • Wednesday - My friend Renae is coming to town so we're having lunch together.  Husband Jeff's brother is in town for a conference and we're having dinner with the family. For our contribution I'm going to make green beans with fennel
  • Thursday - We're having a quick dinner of  peas, rice, and chile-soy sauce steamed fish before Sonny D's second swimming lesson. The first one went great and of course he loved having chocolate ice cream afterwards. 
  • Friday - I'm taking the day off to shop and work my volunteer shift for the Half-Pint resale event.  I highly recommend it if you're in the Madison area and have any need for kid stuff.  The public sale is Saturday and the half-price sale is Sunday.   I might also get a pedicure if I've got enough time.  I'll be getting home a little later so I'll probably have oatmeal or a bowl of cereal on my own.
  • Saturday - This will be a fun day, we're having breakfast with the Easter bunny fundraiser to benefit the local food pantry. Then we're going to the Kids In The Rotunda children's event (this week's performance is juggling) with friends and then out to lunch afterwards. Dinner will be quick and easy spaghetti since we're eating breakfast and lunch out.
  • Sunday - We've got a few containers of homemade chili in the freezer that we should eat up, so we'll have chili mac