Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Spicy and Different: Korean Chicken Burgers

Tangy chicken burger.
I liked this recipe so much that I attempted to bookmark it twice.  I saw it in my Eating Well magazine and went online and bookmarked it.  Then a few days later I saw it featured in one of their email newsletters and I tried to bookmark it again.  Luckily Google Bookmarks shows when you've bookmarked something before, so I didn't double up.  Since it seemed I was really interested in this recipe and it was easy to make and we had all the ingredients, I decided I should probably make it soon! 

Inspiration

Eating Well magazine Korean turkey burgers

I was happy this recipe was so simple, it was only a few ingredients and only a little bit of work.  And luckily we already had gochujang (red pepper paste) and kimchi since we occasionally cook Korean dishes in our house.

I usually can't seem to leave well-enough alone and typically tweak (read: enhance!) most recipes I make, but surprisingly I made only a couple changes in this recipe.  I substituted ground chicken instead of turkey because the package of ground turkey is reserved for turkey salisbury steaks.  And I used sandwich slims instead of hamburger buns because we already had them.

If you want to make it gluten-free, you can easily skip the bun and eat it wrapped in lettuce or just on a plate.  The gochujang should be made without wheat since it's mainly red chili powder, glutinous rice powder, powdered fermented soybeans, and salt, but there are no guarantees since there are many ways to make it. It would be cool to see if I can come up with a vegetarian version, maybe with quinoa and mushrooms. 

Ingredients

makes four burgers
  • 1 pound ground turkey (I used ground chicken)
  • 3 scallions (green onions), sliced (I took this to mean crosswise into little rings.  The recipe didn't indicate if it was the white or green part only, so I cut up the whole thing and threw it in.)
  • 8 teaspoons Korean chile paste (gochujang), divided
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise
  • 4 small whole-wheat hamburger buns, toasted
  • 12 slices English cucumber
  • 1 cup kimchi

Directions

Mix up the ground turkey/chicken, green onion, 5 teaspoons gochujang, and sesame oil.  Be gentle but thorough. Shape into four patties.
This is all the ingredients except the mayo.
Ground chicken, gochujang, sesame oil, and green onions. 
Husband Jeff told me to stop moving so he could
take the picture, which ended up with
my hands awkwardly placed. 
Patties waiting to go on the grill.

I cooked my patties on the George Foreman since I was afraid they would be too delicate for the gas grill.  There are no photos of the patties on the grill because I ended up getting raw chicken on the handle and ended up washing my hands so many times after working with the raw meat. Plus I was working on the rest of the meal.

I cooked the patties for about 4-6 minutes on the countertop grill.  They cooked up much quicker than described in the recipe and quicker than the booklet for the George Foreman grill lists.

Meanwhile, mix 3 teaspoons of gochujang and the mayo to make the sauce.  Toast the buns and cut the cucumber into slices. Spread the sauce on the bun, add a cooked patty, top with cucumber and kimchi. 


Finished sandwich.

Verdict

Surprisingly juicy chicken burger.  Tangy, too.
Like others described, this was juicy when you might expect a rather dry sandwich. Yay! Total plus points for that. And the sandwich is tasty, I liked the combo of the cool cucumber, tangy kimchi, and spicy patty.  Husband Jeff was a little leery of the cucumber since he doesn't care for it much, but he ate it and thought it was fine. 

For Sonny D's sandwich, I skipped the kimchi.  He immediately took out the cucumber and later tried a couple bites, but he preferred everything else on his plate.  In typical toddler fashion, he likes to declare if a dish is spicy or not, but he didn't say it was too spicy.  But if you're planning on serving this to people who are sensitive to spicy dishes, you might want to take the gochujang down to 3 teaspoons (1 Tablespoon) and serve it with regular mayo on the bun.    But definitely don't skip the kimchi, it's really needed to finish the dish.

 I was surprised there was no soy sauce or garlic in this recipe since those are elemental to Korean cooking.  Next time I might mess with the recipe a bit to add some more variety in flavors in the patty. 

This was good and something I would make again, but I'm not in a huge hurry to make it right away. 

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Join Me on a Virtual Climb!

Join us in the virtual climb up
Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Image courtesy of concierge.com
.
In the last few years I've done benefit walks to raise funds for good causes, not because I particularly care about the causes, but as a personal challenge to get out and walk a long way when I normally wouldn't. Just a little personal challenge every now and then to push myself.  I haven't done any of those for at least a year, so it's good I ran across this fitness challenge.

Challenge

Starting Thursday, August 1, I'm participating in Josie's virtual climb up Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro.

We're doing mountain climber exercises until we've covered the 2,330 feet to the top of the mountain.  I'm going to start with her baseline of 40 reps per day, which will take us 58+ days to complete.  Of course it would be great if I could increase my pace to get there a little earlier, but we'll have to see how it goes. That baseline pace has us ending on September 28, which seems so far away.  Maybe I should come up with a reward for finishing so I have a goal (other than the satisfaction of actually doing it), I'll have to think about that for a bit.

I was afraid I would forget to do these, so I set up an alarm reminder in my phone to go off a couple minutes after my regular wake-up alarm so I'll do them first thing in the morning before my shower.  By aiming to accomplish them right away when I start my day, that also gives me the opportunity to complete them later in the day and not miss anything.

And let me introduce you to Josie.  She is a fitness goddess who has birthed four gremlin-kids and is doing a bang-up job getting in super shape! She runs the Yum Yucky blog  -- which shows you how to "Find balance between fitness and your greedy side".  Plus she's a funny and sassy chick who I wish I could hang out with in real life since she seems so awesome.

If you're feeling up for it, I suggest you join us!  It's a great challenge and a way to push yourself and see what you can do!



Do you have a suggestion for how I could reward myself if I complete this fitness challenge? Shopping spree for something specific? Mini vacation?  Spa visit?  Let me hear it! 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of July 29

Our week is pretty quiet, we don't have anything planned other than Sonny D's weekly swimming lessons on Tuesday evening. I'm hopefully going to try out a couple new recipes and make at least one I've made before for this blog.  
  • Monday - Korean/Asian chicken burgers with salads, and cantaloupe.
  • Tuesday - swimming lessons again, so another quick dinner.  I'm going to make pancakes and a baked egg dish with zucchini, green chiles, and maybe add some bacon to it, too.  While the guys are at swimming lessons, I might go to Zumba class over at MadCity Martial Arts.  The wall of mirrors in the front of the room totally makes it obvious that I'm not the most coordinated and not a natural dancer/mover, but it's a great workout.
  • Wednesday - turkey salisbury steaks with egg noodles and salads.
  • Thursday - I'm skipping my Total Toning exercise class because we're going out for a Korean dinner to celebrate the one year since we brought our adopted son home from Korea.  We still find it strange to be parents, but things are going great! 
  • Friday - baked crab cakes with either some fresh veggies (we're loving sweet corn from the farm stand) or something from the freezer. Maybe both! The Dane Dances start up tonight at the Monona Terrace, so maybe we'll go there after dinner for some entertainment.  
  • Saturday - I've got Core Fusion exercise class in the morning. For lunch we'll scrounge around the kitchen and eat leftovers, sandwiches, or whatever else we find.  For dinner our friends are having a grillout for the husband's birthday so we're heading over there for dinner.  I'm making homemade hummus for as our dish to share. 
  • Sunday - We'll make our weekly visit to the Northside Farmers' Market to buy two Hmong eggrolls for Sonny D and produce for me.  This past Sunday I found that the little smoothie cart there makes spring rolls, so I'm planning to grab one of those for myself next time.  Then we'll have lunch and Sonny D and I are going to my best friend's house for the afternoon, hopefully he'll nap in the car on the way over.  Our plans were to have her kids play with Sonny D out in the pool in the back yard, but the weather this week doesn't look too warm.  Whatever ends up happening, I'm sure they'll have a great time. For dinner we'll grill up something random, maybe veggie pizza burgers, sausages, or hot dogs. 


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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Get that Closed Browser Tab Back!

The other morning I found out that if you hit the key combo of Control-Shift-T in Firefox or Internet Explorer (on the computer, not another device), you can bring back to life those tabs you've closed.  They open in the order you closed them in.  So if you accidentally hit the 'Close' icon a couple times and lost something you weren't done with, you can keep hitting Control-Shift-T to bring them back.  So cool!   But also sad that I didn't know this before since I know I've accidentally closed more tabs than I wanted and figured they were gone for good.  But hopefully it can help you. 

Wanna Chat?

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Friday, July 26, 2013

Favorite Food Website - Daily Garnish

Emily Malone of Daily Garnish.
I love the Daily Garnish website, it's one of my favorites.  I definitely slow down and pay attention when I find her posts in my blog reader (I use Feedly since the demise of Google Reader).  I love the glimpse into Emily's life, what it's like being into fitness, her cooking adventures, raising a toddler, etc.  In the time I've been following her blog, I've watched them move a couple times, travel to various places, her experiences with her two pregnancies, and their toddler grow up.

But the big focus for me is seeing what they eat.  Her family is vegetarian, and she has great recipes that incorporate lots of healthy fruits and veggies.  In particular, I have bookmarked several of her blog posts and have referenced them several times. Here are they are:
  • I used her recipe for a lentil-quinoa "meatloaf" as the basis for my own BBQ vegetarian "meatloaf", which was a hit with my family.  I was really glad to have her experience guide me through making my first attempt at something like this. 
  • I love her instructions for working with tofu, I pretty much follow what she does except I leave my tofu in large slices for easier flipping while cooking.  And when it comes to cooking, I "dry-fry" mine, meaning I don't put anything in the skillet at all and press as much moisture out as it cooks so it has a nice brown crust at the end with no added fat.
  • She was a great inspiration for how she preps food for the week by roasting a batch of veggies.  After finding her post last year, I oven-roasted many batches of veggies, which we promptly inhaled when topped with hummus "sauce". 
  • And I really appreciated her review of powdered peanut butters.   I wanted an honest evaluation of the various options, particularly since I use and like PB2, but wanted to know how a person whose opinion I trust would rate the other similar products. 
So a huge "thank you" to Emily for all the time she spends making the Daily Garnish website and continuing to post and keep me entertained.  If you also follow her on Twitter or Instagram, she posts adorable photos from her day.

Question

I'm always looking for new food websites, do you have a food website (other than my blog!) you check often?   Let me know if you have any favorites that you really enjoy. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Classic Zucchini: Zucchini Bread

Zucchini shreds ready to freeze.
I bought a couple big zucchini at the farmers' market because they were only 50 cents each.  But then I needed to figure out what to do with them.  Typically I'll shred them up, pack the shreds into my handy silicone KitchenAid muffin pan to freeze, and throw it into whatever I'm making.
  
Baking up a Mexican casserole? Add some zucchini!
Making spaghetti?  Add some zucchini!
Heating up a bowl of oatmeal?  Add some zucchini!
(These are all true things that have happened in my house!  Don't tell my husband though, he might get suspicious of every dish, especially since I recently tried to sneak mushrooms past him.)

Slice of zucchini bread with butter.
I browsed my recipes to find a way to take advantage of fresh zucchini.  I was planning to make a savory cheddar & zucchini muffin, but I found I didn't have the plain Greek yogurt called for in the recipe and I figured my usual substitute of applesauce wouldn't be appropriate here since it wasn't a sweet dish.  I thought about some mini sweet muffins, but decided on a lighter version of zucchini bread since I made zucchini bread last year and used it to make an excellent French toast that my son and I both wanted to finish.  I'm a nice momma, so I let him have the last piece.   

Inspiration

All Recipes Mom's Zucchini Bread

I skipped the nuts in this recipe since I don't like the texture difference in soft baked goods.  I also lightened up and "healthified" the recipe.  I used a combination of white and whole wheat flour and added some flax seed meal for nuttiness and protein.  A reviewer that said they increased the baking soda and baking powder to ensure it was light-textured rather than dense and heavy, which I needed to achieve since I was using whole wheat flour.  Instead of cinnamon I used Penzey's baking spice, which is a nice substitute of warm spices and makes it taste a little more interesting.  I removed the oil and replaced all of it with unsweetened applesauce.  And instead of white sugar I wanted all brown sugar for a deeper flavor.

 Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup white flour
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup flax seed meal
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsps Penzey's baking spice
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 4 oz unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar 
  • 1.5 tsp vanilla extract (my homemade stuff, the store-bought bottle was all dried up when I went to grab it)
  • 1.5 cups grated zucchini 

Directions


Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.
Zucchini on the chopping block (newly beheaded!)
and the dry ingredients in the background.
In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients starting with flour all the way through baking spice.
Breaking out the homemade vanilla!
In a separate large bowl, mix the wet ingredients, eggs through zucchini.
Liquids.
As always, pour the dry mixture into the wet mixture and gently stir until just incorporated. Bake 40-60 minutes or until pick comes out dry.
Liquids plus dry ingredients in the loaf pan.
Finished loaf of bread.  Quite dark from the brown sugar.

Verdict 

Excellent healthified recipe!  

Oh my gosh! This is seriously the best zucchini bread I've made. Using baking spice instead of cinnamon was perfect, and replacing the oil with all applesauce was great too.

We eat snack breads like this with some butter on top and Husband Jeff adds a sprinkle of sugar. Sonny D didn't want to try it the first time we cut into the bread even though I told him it was dessert (only a minor lie!).  The second time I pulled the loaf out to cut some slices for a morning snack for Husband Jeff and I, he wanted some, but only ate a bite and then said he was done.  Then he wanted more, but I had already eaten the rest of the slice he had said he was done eating.  So I cut him another half slice.  Yet again, he only had a bite and said he was done.  I didn't really mind since I finished that piece as well.  I think he was expecting something different. 

This recipe had to cook the full amount (60 minutes) before it was done, but I made a lot of substitutions, so I can see why it might take a little longer.   Plus I feel like any loaf of bread would take 60 minutes to bake anyway.

It ended up that this zucchini bread didn't last long enough to be turned into French toast.  I found a huge zucchini in the "for free" area at the office, so another loaf might be in order.  

Wanna Chat?

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Saving Corn and Freezing for Later

Stripped fresh sweet corn in a quart freezer bag.
I mentioned using my Pampered Chef kernel cutter tool and I got a chance to use it this weekend because we had a lot of leftover cooked corn on the cob from the ones I picked up a couple days ago at a farm stand.  For half of the corn I used the cutter tool and then switched to a knife to see how they differed. After cutting it off the cob, I put the corn into freezer bags and labeled them with the source, date, and method used so we can compare them later.

Pampered Chef tool

Design: curved serrated edge.

Pros
Easy to use, stand the cob up on one end and push it down the side.

Cons
Doesn't seem to get much of the corn off the cob, a rather shallow cut. 

Knife (medium size, about 7" blade)

Design: straight blade.

Pros
You can control the depth and saw back and forth a bit to cut off what you need. 

Cons
You can't cut off more than about three rows of kernels at a time.  Can be easy to go too deep.  Feels a little more dangerous.


Verdict

I didn't spend a whole lot on the tool, but it feels like a ripoff.  I wish I had tried it with a knife but I didn't really think about any of this before I bought the tool.  I guess I always figured it was a lot of work or required special skills or tools.  But I'm here to tell you that you should really cook up all the corn you get and cut off any extras to freeze for later. 

Wanna Chat?

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Out of Africa: Peanut Stew

I've never had peanut stew, so I didn't know what I was making and I was unsure if I had actually achieved it when I was done.  But the idea sounded great -- sweet potatoes with chicken in a thick and spicy stew. 

This is more of a fall dish in style and hearty, rich flavor, but it was a great way to make dinner in the summer without a lot of work and without heating up the house. I threw it together in the morning before work and it cooked all day and we ate it for dinner when we got home.  I served it with brown rice, which I had pre-cooked earlier in the week and froze into little 1/4 cup pucks in my silicone muffin pan.  I made the rice in the rice cooker set in the garage so we didn't steam-heat the house since we're running the air conditioner.  Husband Jeff was happy that I did it that way, he's particular about that sort of thing.  It's good to be efficient and not over-tax our A/C, but I tend to want to bake when I know I can't.  I'm waiting for cooler weather in a few days so I can make savory zucchini cheddar muffins. 

Inspiration

Cookie + Kate West African peanut soup (vegetarian) and Simply Recipes African chicken peanut stew

I picked the parts of each recipe that met my needs (laziness and less calories).  I cooked mine in a slow cooker even though both recipes were made on a stovetop.  So I skipped browning the chicken and sauteing the onion, which reduced the amount of work and eliminated all of the oil.

I also didn't add the full amount of cayenne or black pepper so each person could add more spice if they wanted it.  This was supposed to have some wilted greens in it, but I figured we could add some torn fresh spinach at the end to customize our bowls.

You can make this vegetarian by swapping the chicken with chickpeas. 

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (I trimmed the extra fat and skin off mine)
  • 1 large yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1.5 Tablespoons ginger paste (from a tube, get some!)
  • 6-8 garlic cloves, minced (from a jar)
  • about 2 lbs. sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 15-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
  • 1 Tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro

 

Directions

Throw everything in the slow cooker, stir, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.  I served ours on top of brown rice.

Everything goes into the slow cooker.

Raw stew with a sprinkle of peanuts in the foreground.


Chicken-y closeup.


Chopping up cooked chicken in the middle of cooking.

My bowl, with spinach but no rice

Verdict

Surprising amount of flavor for little spice.

My version was great, can't wait to try the real stuff! I didn't expect much flavor since the only real spice I added was coriander, which isn't a bold spice.  It must have been the peanut butter that helped give it flavor.

Next time I would go with only 3 cups of liquid so it would be thicker since I really wanted a heavy, rich stew.  I would also like to try smashing the sweet potato up with a potato masher when you take out the chicken to chop it.  That would hopefully thicken the sauce.  I had originally thought about thickening the stew with a cornstarch or arrowroot slurry when I got home, but I completely forgot about it when it came time to eat. 

I cooked mine in a slow cooker because it was convenient and would be ready when we got home.  Maybe in the fall or winter I'll make this again but cook it on the stove and then I can let it reduce down.  Plus the heavy boiling action can break down the veggies and have them contribute some thickness to the dish. 

Could have added more tomatoes.  And next time I won't put the peanuts to cook in the stew but rather chop them up and stir them in to each person's bowl when we serve it. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, July 22, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of July 22

The weather seems like it won't be as hot as last week, so I would love to bake and cook some more this week. This past Sunday I made sauteed chard, caramel corn (for a bake sale at daycare), and zucchini bread. Last year I made zucchini bread and turned it into French toast, which was excellent.
  • Monday - Szechuan tempeh stir fry (served on rice for the guys, I'll have mine on chopped mushrooms) with salads, avocado, and cherries.  I'm happy to say that the tempeh (fermented soybeans) is made by a local Indonesian restaurant, Bandung.  I saw a flier for the tempeh while eating at the restaurant and I bought it at Willy St. Co-op.
  • Tuesday - Sonny D has swimming lessons so we're having my standard quick breakfast-for-dinner.  This time we're having home-frozen pancakes, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, and bananas. We've started a tradition of going out for ice cream after swimming lessons, we've gone to Chocolate Shoppe and McDonald's. 
  • Wednesday - We're going out for dinner with friends at Merchant for restaurant week.
  • Thursday - I've got Total Toning exercise class so this will be another quick dinner.  I'm planning for spaghetti with garlic bread and a frozen bag of Trader Joe's vegetable melange.  All things I had planned to make last week but never got around to cooking up.
  • Friday - We'll grill out hot dogs/sausages/veggie burgers, along with steamed beets for Husband Jeff and sauteed beet greens for me. 
  • Saturday - The St Dennis Catholic church on the east side is having their annual St Dennis Festival, which has an excellent book sale and rummage sale.  Husband Jeff is going to run their 5k in the morning and I'm planning to go to Zumba class and meet them at the festival afterwards. And Greek Fest is this weekend as well, so it might be fun going there for dinner.
  • Sunday - Like every Sunday, I plan to go to the northside farmers' market.  It's held in the parking lot of a little strip mall only a couple blocks away from our house.  I love being able to walk up there and browse a nice small farmers' market in our neighborhood.  Typically we get Sonny D a couple Hmong egg rolls up there while I walk around trying to decide what to buy.  And since most of my Sundays are lazy times, I'm planning dinner will be soup and sandwiches. 

Wanna Chat?

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Friday, July 19, 2013

Unplanned Farm Stand Stop

I was so glad to see the Old Stage Vegetable Gardens farm stand over lunch today.  I immediately switched lanes and made a swift turn so I could see what they had available.  I bought a dozen ears of sweet corn and a cantaloupe.  I tried to buy two melons, but I had run out of money.  To me that's a great day when I run out of money buying great fresh local produce. 

The last time I bought a cantaloupe (a grocery store one, not even a good local one), I ate it all by myself in two days, so I was really excited for more melon.  I should have dug in the change area in my car to scrape together enough to get a second cantaloupe! 
The actual stand I bought from!  Love this place!

I bought a nifty Pampered Chef corn stripper tool that I've been excited to use.  You boil all your corn like you do normally and eat as many as you want.  For any uneaten ears, use the kernel cutter to cut the corn off from the cob and then freeze it in freezer bags.  That's why I bought a dozen, I knew if we didn't eat it all, we'd be able to save it for this fall and winter.  You can use a knife to cut the corn off the cob, but it's a little more dicey.  You have to know what you're doing, it's a pretty dangerous gig to try to wrangle an unstable ear of corn along with a big sharp knife.  And it's not too efficient, the knife blade is flat, but the corncob is curved.  But if you are good at it, I'm sure it's quite quick. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Let's Try Fennel! Green Beans and Fennel with Feta

I picked up a fennel bulb at the farmers' market but I had no idea what I was going to do with it. All I knew was I had tried it in some dishes that other people had made and that I thought it was probably pretty good, so why not go for it.  After I had it home for a day, I started to panic, what was I going to do with this thing?  I searched through my bookmarked recipes but I only had two recipes for fennel, and upon further inspection, they were the same recipe!  It was for a barley and fennel "risotto" in the slow cooker, but it didn't have good reviews so I didn't have a lot of faith that I could pull that off.  An online search for fennel recipes led me to one of my favorite sites, All Recipes.   I browsed through their "best fennel recipes" section and found this recipe and we had all of the ingredients -- green beans from the farmers' market, the bulb of fennel I had bought at the same market, basil from our garden, and even a couple containers of feta in the freezer.  Score! Plus it had good reviews (my favorite feature of All Recipes), which I read to use to modify the recipe a tiny bit. 

Inspiration

All Recipes Fresh Green Beans, Fennel, and Feta Cheese

I reduced the olive oil down to about a tablespoon or two, I don't usually measure so I don't know exactly, but it was certainly a lot less than 1/4 cup.  I also didn't measure the feta, but I tried to reduce it as well.

I also added some garlic powder and onion powder since I feel every dish could really use them both.  I was running out of minced garlic, that's why I used garlic powder.  I was also too lazy to cut up some real onion and I've got Penzey's granulated toasted onion, which smells fabulous. 

The instructions weren't exactly clear in the second step, but after reading the reviews, I figured I was going to saute the veggies in the oil for a bit rather than just warming them up. I also skipped boiling the fennel along with the green beans because some reviewers said that if you cut it thin enough, you didn't need to boil it.


Ingredients

  • 1 lb. green beans, washed and trimmed
  •  1 fennel bulb, cut into thin slices
  • 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • salt and peper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 2 Tablespoons crumbled feta cheese

Directions

Start a medium-large pot of water to boil.  When that's ready, add the green beans and cook for 4 minutes.  When done, drain and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking process.

quick plunge into boiling water
Meanwhile, slice up your fennel.  I wasn't sure how to handle the fennel, so I cut off everything from bulb (goodbye stalks, fronds, and root end) and sliced it in half from top to bottom so I had a good wide flat surface to work with.  I sliced it into thin bits, but it didn't fall apart like an onion would, so I cut the slices again going the other way so I still had long pieces.

Fennel bulb


fennel slices

Start up a big deep skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.  When it's good and hot, turn the heat down to medium, add the fennel and saute for 1 minute.  I've got an electric stove and it's really slow to respond, that's why I suggest starting it higher than you really want.  If you're a lucky duck with a gas range, you'll probably be fine starting it on medium heat.

After sauteing the fennel for a minute, add the blanched green beans, basil, salt and pepper. At this point I also added the garlic powder and onion powder.  I sauteed for about four minutes until the green beans looked good and sizzled up and the fennel was definitely cooked. 

sauteed fennel and beans
Turn off the heat and let it cool a bit and add the feta crumbles.   My crumbles were still a bit hard from being frozen so the chunks were bigger than I wanted.  I tried to stab them with a fork to make them smaller, but it didn't work out. 
Add basil and feta

Verdict 

Hey, I found out I really like fennel! 

While preparing this recipe, Husband Jeff had declared he didn't want the fennel because it smelled like black licorice, but I told him that he should try it because I didn't think it would really taste like black licorice.  I was right, it has that fragrance, but it's not like a gross black jelly bean.  It's really quite subtle and lovely.  

My bulb of fennel was on the smaller side.  I liked the fennel in this dish and it seemed like it could have used a little more fennel for the ratio of green beans, so next time I would use two smaller bulbs or one bigger one.

This dish reminded me of something you would fall in love with at a friend's house for Thanksgiving.  Classy and interesting, but not strange or weird.   I bet you could pass this off as sauteed green beans and let everybody think the whitish bits are onion.

This might be good with some sliced almonds for some additional texture and crunch. 

Wanna Chat?

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Healthy Oat and Almond Cookies

I found this recipe in the daily Diabetic Gourmet recipe email and thought it sounded good.  The name on the website says it's a bar, but that's incorrect, the directions are actually for a cookie shape.   I decided to make these because the ingredients list is short, I had all the ingredients, they're healthy, and low-calorie. 

Inspiration

Diabetic Gourmet Magazine Oatmeal Almond Bars (cookies)

I only made two changes to this recipe and one was unintentional.  I had chopped almonds from the bulk bin and I chopped up them finer so they would disburse better in the cookie.  My unintentional change was to use rolled oats, not quick oats.  I only have rolled oats anyway, but I wasn't paying attention to the oats description and used the thicker oats.  The cookies are probably a bit more hearty than intended, but that doesn't matter too much to me.

A couple of the reviewers said they had problems with the cookies falling apart, so I let them cool on the cookie sheet for a couple minutes before moving them to a cooling rack and they all made it unscathed. 

Ingredients

makes 29 cookies
  • 1/4 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups uncooked quick oats

Directions


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

You can toast your almonds in the oven or the microwave.  To toast them in the oven, put them on the cookie sheet and bake them for 8-10 minutes.  You might want to take them out a little before you think they're fully done since they'll brown a little more as they stand.  Plus it's really easy to forget about them and accidentally burn them.  To toast them in the microwave, cook them in one-minute intervals until they are nutty smelling and lightly browned up.

If you want, you can chop up the almonds finer so they disburse more into the cookies.

Then mix up the almonds, honey, egg whites, cinnamon, and salt in a medium-size bowl.  Ensure everything is thoroughly mixed together since when you add the oats, it would be easy for there to be a pocket of dry cinnamon hiding, waiting to ruin a perfectly good bite.

Mixing up everything but the oats.
Fold in the oats and ensure they're all coated.

Using a medium cookie scoop, drop plops onto the cookie sheet.  This is not a cookie that will spread, so feel free to get them pretty close together so you don't have to bake a second pan of them. 
I love my cookie scoop, use it all the time!
Bake for 12 minutes.
Before the oven.
Let cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes and then move the cookies to a cooling rack. 
After the oven.  Difficult to tell, but slightly golden brown.

Verdict 

Subtle sweetness, all for me. 

I like subtle, not-too-sweet desserts.  Frosting on brownies is weird, seems like overkill.  I want cake and cupcakes with either no frosting or really light whipped cream frostings.  I prefer plain cake doughnuts, no icing, no filling, nothing.   Plus I love oats.  So I found these lightly-sweetened, touch of cinnamon-and-honey oat cookies to be great.  The little bit of nuttiness is really nice.

Sonny D ate a couple of these cookies, but later when I offered one, he turned me down.  Husband Jeff doesn't like my un-sweet, healthy cookies, he'd rather have a grocery store sheet cake with loads of that Crisco frosting.  So all of these cookies ended up being only for me, which I didn't mind other than it makes a lot of cookies for one person to eat.

Some chopped up dried cranberries would be really good in this, along with some chopped up chocolate bits. 

This would also make a good quick granola recipe.  If you want to do that, I would spread out clumps on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake a little longer, maybe 15-18 minutes.  Definitely check them though to ensure they don't get too dark, but you want to dry it out more than a cookie. 

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of July 15

The weather is supposed to be in the upper 80s this week, so I'm trying to minimize cooking hot and steamy things in the house. Usually we end up using the grill and an outdoor camp stove to boil things.
  • Monday - shrimp Nicole (pasta dish with shrimp and a cheesy spinach-artichoke sauce), sauteed rainbow chard, salads
  •  Tuesday - Sonny D has swimming lessons so it's the usual quick meal of breakfast for dinner.  Probably home-frozen pancakes, yogurt, and grapes.
  • Wednesday - African peanut stew in the slow cooker, served with rice.  I'm combining two recipes to make this, hopefully the blend works out right.
  • Thursday - We're going to my company's summer outing at the Mallards game (Northwoods league baseball).  Food is provided, but Sonny D has a hard time focusing on eating when in a crowd and we didn't really care for standing in line for mediocre food last time, so we're having dinner at home.  We'll have spaghetti, garlic bread, and a frozen bag of Trader Joe's vegetable melange before we head over to the ball diamond. 
  • Friday - cauliflower crust pizzas.  I've made cauliflower cheesy "breadsticks", which I want to copy and make into mini pizzas.  I want to cook these on the grill using a pizza stone so we don't heat up the house with the oven.
  • Saturday - Husband Jeff's company outing this time, going to the Milwaukee zoo. I didn't plan a meal for this night, figuring we'd have leftovers or maybe a frozen pizza.  The weather is supposed to be cooler, so maybe I'll actually to turn the oven on for some pizza.
  • Sunday - our adoption group's annual summer picnic.  Each family brings their own meal, so we'll probably have sandwiches with crackers and hummus and whatever fruits and veggies I picked up at the farmers' market.  Sonny D's daycare is having a bake sale and I signed up to bring a treat in for that on Monday, so I'm going to make caramel corn. 

Wanna Chat?

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Keeping Track of What's Where with a Freezer Inventory

We have two freezers at our house, one on the bottom of our French door refrigerator in the kitchen and a small chest freezer in our basement.  It's easy to forget what I've already got and I don't want to buy a lot of duplicates, so a while back I created a freezer inventory to keep track of what is in each freezer and how many we have of each item. 

View my freezer inventory printout (Word doc on Google Drive)

You should be able to print copies of mine or you can use it to create a version with categories that work well for your household.  I typically print 3-4 copies at a time so I can fill out a new one when I feel it's necessary.

Why Inventory?

Having a freezer inventory saves me time when planning my grocery list since I already know what I've got and if I need to buy more.  It also makes planning meals easier since I can sit down with my inventory sheet and see what we've got for ingredients.  I keep my filled-out freezer inventory sheet on the side of my refrigerator with a magnet so it's always handy.

In general, I try to keep my my freezer organized.  Fruits for smoothies go in a plastic bin in the top drawer, veggies go in the green crate, meats in the pink crate, etc.   Occasionally when I'm inventorying I'll run across an item that wasn't put into the right place in the freezer, like if I happened to buy something and didn't have enough time when I got home to put it in its assigned place, this is the time I'll move it to the right place.

I color-code my inventory I use a black or blue pen for upstairs, a red pen for downstairs.  That way I can see at a glance where an item is located.

How I Inventory My Freezer

I use one hand to pull things out of the freezer and the other hand is for writing.  I'm right-handed when I write, so I put a thin glove on my left hand so I can use that hand to pull cold items out of the freezer.
  1. Take it all out -- I grab an empty laundry basket and start by removing everything from a section of the freezer and putting it in the laundry basket.
  2.  Put it all back in -- As I put each thing back into that section of the freezer, I make note of the item on the inventory sheet. The boxes are used to indicate the number of items, like if there are two loaves of bread, there is a slash  to indicate each loaf \ \ . When I remove one loaf of bread from the freezer, I add a slash in the other direction /, which completes the X. 
  3. Repeat -- go through each section of the freezer and make note of everything you've got.  
Sometimes it's difficult knowing how to count things, do you count single bagels individually, or a package of 4 bagels as one?  For me that depends on the type of object it is.  A lot of the time I just try to remember how I counted that item.

I inventory my freezer about 4-6 times per year, usually when the inventory sheet is all scribbles and crossed out items.  

Wanna Chat?

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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gluten-free Morning: Choco-Banana Quinoa Breakfast

I decided to try another quinoa breakfast after my banana bread quinoa a while back. I figure this chocolate inspiration would be nice since the natural taste of quinoa doesn't appeal to me and chocolate is strong enough to probably cover that up.

Inspiration

Glow Kitchen chocolate banana breakfast quinoa (featured on Greatist)

I didn't exactly follow the recipe, I  skipped some ingredients and subbed some others to keep the calorie count low for this recipe because I usually to eat a small bowl of oatmeal with fruit and a smoothie each morning. The bowl of oatmeal has protein and fiber while the smoothie has superfood powder and 8 oz of liquid to keep me feeling full for at three hours.

I skipped the honey because I sweeten my breakfast with non-dairy creamer, but feel free to use a sweetener in yours.

The original recipe cooks on the stove right before you want to eat it, but I used the quick and easy start-the-steel-cut-oats-on-the-stove-the-night-before method. You bring the ingredients to a boil, move it off the heat, and leave it sit with the lid on all night and it's fully cooked in the morning. Easy-peasy. Then in the morning all you need to do is reheat it, and you're good to chow down.  This is also a good way to use cocoa powder since it gives it a lot more time to hydrate and spread it's chocolatey flavor around. 

Ingredients

serves 2
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cups liquid (I used water, see comment in the Verdict section*)
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • Sprinkle of salt
  • 1/2 banana (I used an over-ripe one from my freezer) 

Directions 

Starting the night before:
Put all the ingredients in a small pot over medium-high heat. Mash the banana around until it breaks down into small bits. Bring it to a boil, take it off the heat, and let it sit on the stove with the lid on all night. 
Cocoa powder doesn't mix well into cold liquids.
Starting to heat up, so the cocoa powder incorporates.
The next morning, there was a lot of excess liquid in the pot, so I had to cook for 10 more minutes to get rid of all the extra water.
Cooked it longer, now it's a good porridge texture.
Split it into two bowls. 
My bowl with non-dairy creamer and almond milk on top.

Verdict

Waterlogged, but tasty. 

When I got up in the morning to eat breakfast, the pot had too much water in it, it was super thin and runny. I had to cook this over medium heat for 10 more minutes to get it to a thick "porridge" texture.  That was disappointing since I couldn't eat right away. Don't know if that was my fault with a cooking error or if it was the recipe.   But the flavor was good, I like the classic combination of chocolate and banana together.  I liked my version with only 1/2 of a banana rather than a whole one since I'm not super fond of bananas. 

I'm not gluten-free, but I have a friend who is (hi Renae!) and I would definitely recommend this as a recipe to try.  I would definitely recommend doubling the recipe so you have several servings.  Plus it's easy and doesn't require a lot of ingredients. 

Wanna Chat?

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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Bacon Cheeseburger Skillet Casserole

We were interrupted during our dinner when we were eating this dish.  What is it about the "No Soliciting" sign tucked into our doorbell that says "ring me" to all the people who are selling stuff and asking for donations or support?  Do they think it doesn't apply to them?  Because it truly does apply to them, it applies to everyone who comes to our door uninvited.  Neighbors are ok, because they probably came to tell us something, not because they want something from us.  Friends and family are great, because we know them and like them.  But all those unknown people who wants something from us, go away.  That includes Girl Scouts, environmental endorsers, even people from my political party when I support their issue.  Don't come to our door.  I feel bad for the next person that comes to our house unannounced, because I've really gotten sick of people ignoring that "No Soliciting" sign and I'm going to tell them in no uncertain terms to go away.  Actually, I'll probably totally chicken out and just stand there all meek and politely listen, like I always do.  I hate confrontation and will avoid it at any cost.   

But anyway, back to the food.  Typically I write up our week's menu and scheduled events on a piece of paper and then once everything is finalized, I copy the same information to the big 8-foot chalkboard in our kitchen.  But this week I didn't write the menu out on the chalkboard, so I forgot to defrost the steak I wanted to grill because I wasn't looking ahead.  I needed to come up with a meal that would be quick enough to make after work for a toddler, and I couldn't rely on my standard dinner-for-breakfast because we had pancakes and frittata the day before.  I had bookmarked this concept and it was on my short list of meals that I want to make soon, and I knew I could pull it together pretty quickly since I had some pre-cooked ground beef in the freezer.

Don't tell Husband Jeff, but I was totally winging it when making this dish since I wasn't exactly following either of my inspiration recipes.   I didn't know until I tasted it at the end that it was a success.

Inspiration

Kristin's Kitchen cheeseburger noodle casserole (based on a Weight Watchers recipe) and SkinnyTaste cheeseburger cassserole

One recipe uses sour cream for the sauce, which we don't use, and the other didn't really have a sauce other than mixing in some shredded cheese, which I was afraid would get dry.  So I created a white sauce and adding shredded cheese to make a creamy cheesy sauce.

You can add any veggies you like, it would be easy enough to add some shredded zucchini when you're cooking the ground beef. 

This recipe will have you doing three things at once -- boiling pasta, making a cheese sauce, and cooking up the meat and veggies.  It's not difficult though since none of it really requires a lot of attention.  But you can always enlist someone to help you make dinner if you need a couple extra hands.

To make this gluten-free, use a gluten-free pasta, rice, or quinoa.  To make it vegetarian, use faux-meat crumbles. 

Ingredients

  • 6 oz pasta
  • 1 lb ground beef (mine was frozen pre-cooked)
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped frozen spinach
  • 1/2 to 1 cup chopped mushrooms (optional)
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2 slices of bacon, cooked crispy and minced (mine was oven-baked frozen)

white sauce
  • 2 T butter or margarine
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup milk (I used almond milk)
  • 1.5 T Worcestershire sauce
  • heavy sprinkle of your favorite herb blend (I used Penzey's Mural of Flavor)
  • 2-4 T mustard (I used horseradish deli mustard)
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used co-jack)

Instructions

Cook your pasta according to the directions.

In your largest pan/pot over medium heat, brown your ground beef or defrost it.  Once the meat is fully cooked, you can drain it and rinse it.  Add the onions and cook for 5-8 more minutes.  Add the garlic, spinach, and mushrooms and cook for 1-2 more minutes. 
Cooking up the ground beef, onions, garlic, mushrooms, and spinach.

Now it's time to craft a white sauce.  Melt the butter or margarine in a small saucepan over medium heat and sprinkle in the flour.  Make sure it's all thoroughly mixed together.  Add a splash of milk and fully incorporate it before adding another splash.  If you dump all the milk in at once, you'll end up with lumps (speaking from experience here!).  Once all of the milk is mixed in, add the rest of the white sauce ingredients except for the cheese and stir well.  At this point the color will be rather a unappealing brown-grey, but go with it, no one will be able to tell when the dish is done. 
The start of a white sauce.  I love my rubber spatulas!
Got this Betty Crocker one at the dollar store.
Add the drained tomatoes and cooked pasta to the meat.
Woah, the pan is getting really full.

Add the shredded cheese to your white sauce and cook over low heat until it's fully incorporated. 
A pile of shredded cheese waiting to be stirred in.
The creamy cheese sauce is ready.

Added the cheese sauce, here's the finished dish.

Verdict 

Complete experimentation success!  Yay!

I tasted it and needed to add more seasoning when it was all said and done, but it turned out quite good.
It dirtied a lot of dishes, but it also made a huge batch of food, so we should be able to eat this for at least one more lunch if not two. And the leftovers seemed to be even better tasting than the first day, so I was glad this made a lot. 

I got caught trying to slip mushrooms past Husband Jeff because I didn't chop them up fine enough.  I didn't have any more time.   


I wish we had more than two slices of frozen, pre-cooked bacon to use in this recipe but we had used a bunch of it the day before for our bacon frittata before swimming lessons. 

Sonny D avoided this at first, but once the supply of sweet potato fries, avocado, and French fried onion strings and croutons dried up, he tasted it.  The first bowl was quite popular once he finally tried it and he was aiming to have more when our doorbell rang (see the story above).  I added spinach because I had a little bit in the freezer and figured I might be able to sneak it by him, which I did.  Success!   He also only picked out one tomato piece.  

Wanna Chat?

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Monday, July 8, 2013

Menu Plan: Week of July 8

Summer is in full swing, with lots of grilling and lots of fresh produce.
  • Monday - grilled top round steak (from the farmers' market), sauteed beet greens (farmers' market again), grilled cauliflower (from our garden!), and salads
  • Tuesday - Sonny D has swimming lessons on Tuesdays, so dinner has to be fast. I'm actually not going to pick breakfast like usual, this time I'm trying again for the Szecuhan tempeh and veggies stir fry that I've been wanting to make for the last week.  Probably will put a salad with it since I picked up several bags of salad greens at the grocery store. 
  • Wednesday - I'm going out for a girls' night out with friends at Jolly Bob's and I figure Husband Jeff and Sonny D will have a frozen pizza since Jeff mentioned wanting one on Sunday. 
  • Thursday - We're going out to a local harvest dinner called Local on the Lake to support an initiative called Buy Fresh, Buy Local.  
  • Friday -  Husband Jeff and I have a LivingSocial deal for a couples' massage, so we're talking about going out for a light happy hour snack beforehand and maybe dinner afterwards. 
  • Saturday - this weekend is an event called Art Fair on the Square, featuring tons of national artists and a special section of artists from Wisconsin.  Usually it's baking-hot out and we torture ourselves by sweating and looking at artwork we can't afford.  Maybe it won't be so hot this year.  I've been stocking up on random interesting sausages/hot dogs, like Trader Joe's sun-dried tomato chicken sausages and nitrite- and nitrate-free turkey hot dogs, so I was thinking we could have grilled something along with pesto pasta and veggies.
  • Sunday - I love making it up to our little northside farmers' market, it's much smaller a never crowded like the huge one downtown (largest producer-only farmers' market in the US).  Typically I'll spend a little time browsing around, buying eggs, produce, and a couple Hmong eggrolls for Sonny D.  Sunday dinner will probably be something easy, a random soup from the pantry or freezer or maybe yet another night of grilling. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Good Part of the Beet: Sauteed Greens

The finished dish of sauteed chard.
For this recipe you can use any greens -- beet greens, swiss/rainbow chard, mustard greens, collard greens, spinach, and probably even kale (cook a little longer though).  I think I've only used beet greens and chard.  I don't like beets because I think they taste like soil, so Husband Jeff eats that end of the plant, but the beet greens are good so this is my way to ensure we don't waste anything.  Plus it's so tasty!

I don't know where I found this recipe, I tried to search online to see if I could find the original, but I had no luck.  I scribbled my copy on the cardboard piece from the back of a pad of paper a couple years ago and I pull it out every summer to cook up some greens.

This recipe is really flexible, aside from switching out the greens, you can make it without pasta to have a veggie-only side dish/gluten-free and without the feta to be dairy-free/vegan.

Ingredients

  • 2 oz pasta (optional)
  • 2 Tablespoons raisins 
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • 1 bunch greens, rinsed and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional, it's not actually noticeably spicy)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon (or 1.5 Tablespoons from a bottle)
  • 1/3 cup almonds, chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta (optional)

Directions

Start your pasta and cook for the normal amount of time.

Soak the raisins in a little cup of hot water for about 10 minutes or until whenever you need them for the recipe.  I put mine in a custard cup, add enough water to at least cover them, and put them in the microwave for 30 seconds.  They'll plump up to be nice and juicy by the time you get to throw them in the dish.

Put the oil in a deep pan/skillet over medium heat and wait until the oil is hot, then add the onions and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and saute for 1 more minute. 

Ribbons of chopped chard.
Add the chopped greens and 1/4 cup water, cover and let cook for 3 minutes or until the greens are softened.  A hearty kale would likely take longer, maybe more like 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain the water off the softened raisins. 

Once the greens are softened, add the crushed red pepper, lemon juice, almonds, pasta, drained raisins, and feta and stir it all together. 

Verdict

Tangy feta, sweet raisins, bitter greens, crunchy nuts, sour lemon juice, and savory onions -- what an awesome balance!

I always forget how much I love the little bit of sweetness that the raisins add to this dish.  I need to add more next time. 

It looked like a larger-than-normal bunch of chard so I thought about only cooking up part of it, but I'm glad I threw it all in because we ate all of it except for a tiny bit of leftovers.  Greens cook down a lot.  I had plans that those leftovers would become part of my morning snack at work, but I forgot them.  Darn.  The tastiness will await me until later.  I think this might even be good cold, but I don't remember. 

I didn't even offer any to Sonny D since that little guy turns his nose up on all things greens except for green grapes, avocado, my smoothies with a handful of spinach, and pesto. 

 I can't wait to make this more times this summer.  

Wanna Chat?

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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Out of Season: Sweet Potato-Chipotle Soup

Creamy bowl of soup
I know it's totally not typical soup weather since it's now summer here in Wisconsin, but this recipe was perfect for the slow cooker since I could start it in the morning and it would cook all day and all I needed to do when I got home was whiz it up with the immersion blender.  Plus I didn't heat up the house with the stove and didn't have to stand over it while it cooked. 

This recipe also has an excellent tip, instead of attempting to chop up chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, whiz up an entire can and measure it out from there. 

Inspiration

Marin Mama Cooks sweet potato and chipotle soup

I skipped the olive oil and used olive oil cooking spray to saute the onion, I also used dried cilantro because I've got it in the pantry. 

Ingredients

serves 8
  • cooking spray
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/ 1/2 tsp pureed chipotle in adobo (see note below)
  • 2.5 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 6 cups stock

Note: The original poster used a store-bought jar of pureed chipotle in adobo, I figured I would make my own.  I dumped a can of chipotles in adobo into the small food processor/chopper cup of my immersion blender and whizzed it up. Then I measured out the amount called for and put it in the slow cooker and put the rest of the puree in a plastic-wrap-lined ice cube tray to freeze for later recipes.  I measured out the puree as I put it in the tray, mine are 1.5 tsp chunks.


Directions

Saute the onions over medium heat in a medium-sized skillet sprayed with the cooking spray. After 6-8 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 1-2 more minutes.  Don't add the garlic at the beginning because it can burn pretty easily.  If you need to prevent the onions from sticking, add a splash of water.

Sauteing onions and garlic
While the onions are cooking, dump everything else into a medium-size slow cooker.  

Sweet potato chunks, I like how the
mottled color looks like co-jack cheese.
Into the slow cooker with all the spices and stock.
Whizzed up can of chipotles in adobo.
Chipotles in adobo puree going to be frozen cubes.  
I cooked the soup on low for nine hours.  When I got home, I stuck in the immersion blender and whizzed it up.  Husband Jeff requested to keep a little texture, so I stopped before it was totally smooth.  I served it with croutons on top.

Verdict

Sweet and only a little smoky-spicy.

I liked this, it would be perfect for fall.  It was pretty sweet from the sweet potatoes (duh!) so I added more salt.  I have to admit I was too lazy to actually measure out the amount of salt called for in the recipe when I was pulling this together, so instead I sprinkled some from our salt shaker into the slow cooker.  It wasn't enough for my tastes, so I added more at the table to counter the natural sweetness.

Sonny D tasted it, but only because it was the only way to get more crackers.  He didn't seem to hate it and didn't say it was too spicy, so I guess it passes. 

In the future I would add a little more chipotle in adobo paste, it wasn't smoky-spicy enough for me.  I had to make it as written the first time though since the first time I made a recipe with chipotles in adobo I accidentally used one whole can rather than one whole pepper.  EEP!  It was so tasty, but so incredibly spicy that we couldn't eat it.

I like how this didn't seem like a lot in the slow cooker (wasn't all the way to the rim) but it made a lot of soup.  We had it for dinner the first night, lunches the second day, and I froze two more two-serving containers for future dinners. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) gmail.com. It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!