Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Rainy Day Smores

So, I happen to love smores, like most of America. However, I don't often have a big fire burning in my backyard to cook them on, so I had to get creative! Here is a very easy method for making smores indoors. You can be so creative with them. Try different fillings, like marshmallows, butterscotch chips and pecans, marshmallows, Nutella and bananas, marshmallows, peanut butter, white or milk chocolate and bananas or marshmallows, strawberries and chocolate- yum!

Mini marshmellows
Chocolate chips, dark chocolate or milk chocolate bar (whatever chocolate you have!)
Graham crackers
Slice bananas

Preheat the broiler on your oven or toaster oven. Top graham crackers with chocolate and then marshmallows. Place the marshmallow and chocolate covered graham crackers on a baking sheet. Broil for 3-5 minutes or until the marshmallows are toasted to your liking. Top with sliced bananas and another marshmallow. Imagine you're sitting outside in front of a warm fire and enjoy!

Creamy Vegetable Lasagna

This recipe was based on a recipe I saw for lasagna with sausage and mushrooms. I decided to leave out the sausage and substitute roasted red bell pepper and roasted zucchini. It was delicious! Eli literally ate his entire bowl (this rarely happens). The secret to building a lot of flavor into this lasagna is to brown the mushrooms and onions in the butter (don't rush this step) and to broil the zucchini until the edges are golden brown. You could add italian sausage or left over cooked chicken if you'd like. I served it with a large helping of sauteed broccoli with olive oil and garlic and a piece of my
french bread toasted with olive oil, garlic and parmesan.

6 medium zucchini, sliced lengthwise into four strips each
2 red bell peppers, cut in half stem and seeds removed or 1 jar roasted red bell peppers in water (NOT vinegar!)
1/2 to 1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 tbsp butter
4 tbsp flour
1 package white mushrooms, rinsed and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups diced onion
1/2 tsp salt (taste sauce for seasoning once it's finished. If your chicken broth is low sodium, you'll probably want to add more)
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups milk
12 whole wheat lasagna noodles, cooked according to package directions (or use the regular oven-ready lasagna)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

Preheat your oven on broil. Place the bell peppers and sliced zucchini on a baking sheet. Brush both sides of zucchini with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Broil 5-10 minutes, until the skin of the bell peppers turns black and the zucchini are golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven. Cover bell peppers in foil to allow time to steam, in order to remove the skin (approx. 5 minutes). Chop the zucchini into bite-size pieces. Set aside. Remove skin from bell peppers and dice. Mix with the zucchini.

In a large saucepan, on medium-high heat, melt 2 tbsp butter with 2 tbsp olive oil. Add the mushrooms. Sautee 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown. Add the onions and garlic. Season with pepper and 1/2 tsp salt. Sautee until the onions are tender and light brown. Add the 4 tbsp flour, stirring to coat all of the mushrooms. Add the broth and milk, stirring well. Simmer about 5 more minutes on medium-high heat, until thickened.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. To assemble lasagna, spoon 2/3 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Layer three noodles. Top with 1/3 of the zucchini/bell pepper mixture. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup mozzarella. Repeat layers two more times, ending with a final layer of noodles. Pour the rest of the sauce over the top and sprinkle with remaining mozzarella and the 1/4 parmesan. Bake, covered with foil, for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 15 more minutes, or until very bubbly and cheese begins to brown. Allow to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

No-Fry Cinnamon Sugar Potato Doughnuts

Okay, I must admit that I LOVE doughnuts! Who doesn't? But, I would never make them at home because we don't eat fried food at home and I wouldn't want a whole dozen doughnuts sitting around my house. So, you can imagine how excited I was when I found this recipe! It was in an old Taste of Home magazine that my mom handed down to me when I got married 7 years ago. Mundo and I really enjoyed munching on these for breakfast. I served them with fruit salad and scrambled eggs with bell peppers and potatoes. It was a great breakfast! I halved the recipe and it made a little over a dozen. They only had 2 tbsp of butter in the whole batch, so I felt pretty good about eating them. They would also be yummy with a chocolate glaze or dipped in powdered sugar (or any other creative topping!) If you experiment with different toppings, let me know. I'd love to try them!

1 cup cooked, mashed potato (completely plain. I peeled and diced it, then cooked it in water in the microwave for about 5 minutes)
1/4 cup cooking liquid from the potatoes
1 cup warm milk
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups bread flour or 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour and 3 cups bread or unbleached white flour
1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp) fast rise, active dry, yeast

3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 tbsp melted butter

Kitchenaid Mixer Method:
Dissolve yeast in mixer bowl in reserved 1/4 cup potato cooking liquid. Add a few tbsp of the warm milk to the eggs to temper them, then add eggs and milk to the mixer bowl. Add sugar, salt and flour. Beat on speed 2 until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and a ball forms. Allow to knead on speed 2 for 2 more minutes. Grease bowl with cooking spray. Warm oven for 1 minute on 200 degrees F. Turn off. Place bowl with dough in the oven and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Allow to rise 30 minutes.*

Hand Mix Method:
Dissolve yeast in large mixing bowl in reserved 1/4 cup potato cooking liquid. Add a few tbsp of the warm milk to the eggs to temper them, then add eggs and milk to the bowl. Add sugar, salt and flour. Mix by hand until a ball of dough forms. Knead about 10 minutes on a floured surface until dough is nice and smooth. Grease bowl with cooking spray. Warm oven for 1 minute on 200 degrees F. Turn off. Place bowl with dough in the oven and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Allow to rise 30 minutes.*

*Roll dough out on a flour service into a 1/2 inch thick disk. Cut, using a doughnut cutter, into approximately 30 doughnuts. Place on greased baking pans. Cover with a towel. Warm the oven for 1 minute at 200 degrees and turn off. Place baking pan with doughnuts in oven. Allow to rise 25 minutes. Remove from oven. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately brush both sides with melted butter and dip in cinnamon/sugar mixture. Serve warm. Yield 2 1/2 dozen.

My Minestrone

I've been trying really hard to stick to my grocery budget. One of my secrets is to plan 2 meatless meals a week. I usually make soup and salad or soup and panini sandwiches for one of those meals. Today, it was minestrone soup with my homemade french bread topped with oilve oil, mozzarella, tomato and basil and broiled until bubbly. I had the hardest time finding just the right minestrone soup recipe, so I decided to combine a few of them to make my own. It came out so good! I think my secret is the can of beef broth. It gave the soup a rich flavor that probably would be missing if only chicken broth or vegetable broth was used. I used orzo pasta that I had on hand, but you can really use any type of pasta that you have left over in your pantry. Spaghetti can be broken into little pieces and works great in a soup like this. This is a healthy, satisfying fall or winter soup that your family will love (even my 1 1/2 year old loved it!)

2 tbsp olive oil
2 medium onions, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. carrots, diced
1 c. celery, diced (2 stalks)
2 zucchini, diced
3 small yellow squash, diced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 1/2 tsp salt (use less if your broth isn't reduced sodium)
dash of red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper
3 c. kale, pulled off the stem and chopped
1 can great northern beans rinsed and drained
1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 28 oz can whole tomatos, crushed between your fingers when adding to the pot
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 14 oz can beef broth
1 box reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 c. uncooked orzo, ditalini tube pasta, elbow macaron, vermicelli or spaghetti broken spaghetti (whatever you have on hand!)
Parmesan cheese for topping

Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sautee until just beginning to brown. Add the celery, carrots and garlic. Sautee until celery is tender. Add the squash and zucchini and the herbs, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Sautee about 5 minutes, until tender. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the pasta. Simmer 20 minutes. Add the pasta and simmer about 10 more minutes, or until the pasta is al dente. Serve with parmesan cheese and my multi-grain french bread. Yummy!!

Multi-Grain French Bread

I was looking for a french bread recipe similar to the multi-grain bread I buy at our grocery store, but I had a hard time finding one. I decided to adapt a regular french bread recipe and make it my own. The results yielded two loaves of whole wheat french bread with nutty notes and a really great crunchy crust. It tastes the best straight from the oven with butter.

2 envelopes fast-rise (active dry) yeast
1 tbsp plus 2 teaspoons sugar
2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp raw sunflower seeds
2 tbsp millet
2 tbsp flax seed
4 tbsp cornmeal
2 tbsp half and half. milk, or one egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp water

Kitchenaid Mixer Method:
Combine the yeast, warm water and sugar in the mixer bowl. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Attach the dough hook. Add the salt, flour, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, millet, and flax seed. Turn mixer on speed 2 and mix until a ball of dough forms. Mix 2 more minutes to allow the dough time to knead. Remove bowl from mixer and grease the sides of the bowl with olive oil, so the dough won't stick once it rises.*

Hand Mix Method:
Combine the yeast, water and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve the yeast. Add the salt, flour, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, millet, and flax seed. Stir or use hands to combine. Dough should form into a nice ball. Turn out onto a floured surface. Knead about 10 minutes, or until a smooth dough is formed. Grease the inside of the mixing bowl with olive oil. Place dough in bowl.*

*Cover bowl with plastic wrap and a towel. Turn oven on warm (170-200 degrees) for one minute, then turn off. Place bowl in oven. Allow to rise for 25-30 minutes or until doubled in size. Divide dough into two portions. Sprinkle cornmeal on a baking sheet. Shape each dough portion into a long baguette (I do them side-by-side on one tray and they fit nicely). Cover with a towel and place back in the warm oven (you might need to turn it back on to 200 degrees for one minute to warm it up again). Allow dough to rise 30 more minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Using a sharp knife, make diagonal slices about 1 inch apart along the top of each loaf. Brush with half and half or egg yolk. Using a spray water bottle, spray the top of the loaves with water and the inside of the oven. Place a dish of hot water on the rack next to the bread tray. Bake bread for 35-45 minutes, until nicely browned on the bottom and on top.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Flan (just like my Abuelita's!)

I LOVE flan!! I could eat it all day long and be quite happy! My husband, Mundo, who is Nicaraguan, gave me the idea of baking it in individual servings instead of one big dish (the way his mom used to do it :) ). It worked great! It was easy to eat and looked really pretty when served. If you've never made caramel before, this recipe is a great place to start! The trick is to make sure you don't walk away from it and to read the directions carefully before you start making it. You'll be SO proud of yourself!

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

5 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups whole or low-fat milk
3/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. For the caramel: pour 3/4 cup sugar into a saucepan. Drizzle with the 1/4 cup water. Don't stir! Place the pan over medium heat and, without stirring, very gently swirl the pan by the handle until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is clear. It should take about 5 minutes. It's important to make sure the syrup is clear before it starts boiling so don't allow it to boil yet! Once clear, increase the heat to high and bring the syrup up to a boil. Cover and boil for exactly 2 minutes. Uncover and cook the syrup until it begins to darken into a caramel color- about 2 minutes (still don't stir it!) Gently swirl the pan by the handle once again and cook until the syrup turns a deep caramel color. Quickly pour the caramel into 8 6-ounce bowls/ramekins or a 2 to 2 1/2 quart baking dish (about 2 tbsp per bowl). It will harden immediately once poured.

For the custard: Microwave the milk for 2 minutes, or until steaming. Combine the eggs, sugar and salt and whisk until smooth. Slowly stir in the milk. Add the vanilla. Pour into the caramel-lined bowls or baking dish. Place custard-filled bowls/baking dish into a large baking pan and place in the oven. Fill the baking pan halfway with boiling water, creating a water bath. (it's always easier to pour the water into the baking dish once it's in the oven). Bake for 40-60 minutes for individual bowls or 1 to 1 1/2 hours for a baking dish (jiggle the bowl to see if it's done. If the center seems to still have a liquid consistency, bake a little longer). Refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours before serving. Run a knife around the edge of the bowl and dip in hot water to release the custard. Flip over onto a plate to serve. It's SO yummy!!

Granola bars with Apricots and Cranberries

I saw this recipe on Barefoot Contessa (0ne of my favorite Food Network shows). The only changes I made was to leave out the dates called for in the original recipe. I used what I had in my pantry- dried apricots, cranberries and raisins.When individually wrapped and stored in an air-tight container, these granola bars will taste great for a month!

2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal
1 cup sliced almonds
1 cup shredded coconut, loosely packed (I used unsweetened)
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots*
1/2 cup dried cranberries*
1/2 cup raisins
cooking spray
*or any dried fruit you have on hand, such as raisins, apples, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour the almonds, coconut and oatmeal onto a baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the almonds and coconut are lightly toasted. Remove from oven. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees. Combine the butter, honey, sugar, vanilla and salt in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for one minute and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Pour coconut/oatmeal mixture into the bowl. Stir in the wheat germ and dried fruit. Spread into a greased 8 x 12 inch baking dish lined with foil (make sure it hangs over each side of the tray to make "handles" so you can pick up the large bar and pull it out to cut it easily into individual granola bars). With wet fingers, press the mixture into a flat bar. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until browned and allow to cool 2-3 hours before cutting (if they're too warm, they'll fall apart). Using the foil handles, pull out the baked granola bar and cut into individual pieces. Wrap each bar in foil and place in an air-tight container. It should make 16 rectangle shaped bars.