Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Apples for Dinner Party

We had a ton of apples and I decided to throw together a quick apple themed dinner using the things we had around the house. And Noam and Kristin brought a salad with a cider vinaigrette. Perfect!  I decided it would be fun to share the menu with you. Consider a theme for your next get-together! Happy Fall!

Wine: Hauser’s Grand Reserve Apple Wine from Bayfield, WI

Salad: Noam’s Toasted Almond Salad with Apple Cider Vinaigrette

Appetizer: Whiskey Cheese Fondue
                1 cup wine, 12 oz. shredded swiss and gruyere cheese, 1 Tbsp cornstarch, 1/4 cup whiskey
In your fondue pot, heat the wine until it begins to bubble. Combine the cheese and cornstarch. Add the cheese in four handfuls. Stir each handful in until it is completely melted. When all of the cheese is melted and combined, stir in the whiskey. Keep over low heat while eating. Serve with chunked apples, and fresh sourdough bread. Spice it up with cayenne pepper, parsley, or green chilis! 

Main Course: Caramelized Onion Butternut Squash Soup with Apples
                2 Butternut squash, 6 small apples, 2 purple+1 yellow onion, garlic, 4 cups chicken broth, spices, 1 bottle of Crispin hard cider

Remove the seeds and strings from two medium butternut squash. Roast the squash (4 halves) for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Caramelize 2 large purple and 1 large yellow onion with 3 Tbsp of butter for 25 minutes. Add 3 cloves crushed garlic. Pour in a 12oz bottle of Crispin cider and cook down for 3 minutes on high heat. Peel, core and dice 6 small apples. Add 4 cups of chicken broth, pepper and salt. Scoop the roasted squash into the soup and puree with an immersion blender.  Add a pinch of allspice and curry powder. Top with cream, chopped fresh parsley and roasted pumpkin seeds.

Dessert: Omenapiiraka- Finnish Apple Pie

Have a great Wednesday!

Omenapiirakka: Finnish Apple Pie

Apples, apples and more apples! After a successful day of apple picking with Emily and Joe this weekend, we had apples to spare. Last night we hosted Noam and Kristin for an apple themed dinner party to use some up and for dessert I made this amazingly easy apple pie. 

This is another rustic-style Finnish pie with a free-form crust. Based on Bea Ojakangas’ recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, this pie whips together in about 15 minutes of prep and 30 minutes of baking! I hope you enjoy this easy Finnish dessert.

1 ¼ cup white whole-wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
Pinch of ground allspice and cardamon
1 stick of cold butter, cubed
1 cup heavy cream

5-6 small tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick
½ tsp cinnamon
1 Tbsp flour
¼ cup cane sugar
Dash of salt

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Combine the flours, baking powder and spices. Cut the cold butter into the flour until it is well-combined and crumbly. Pour in the heavy cream and form into a ball. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes. Peel and slice the apples and mix with the remaining ingredients.

On a large greased baking sheet, roll out the dough into a large square. Cut to straighten the edges. Pour the apples into the center of the dough square and fold the sides up and over about 1 inch. Using the scrapes, roll out and cut to make a lattice pattern on the top of the exposed apples in the center of the pie.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Make sure to let the pie cool. Then cut into 9 squares. Top with fresh whipped cream and caramel sauce, or drop a dollop of ice cream on the side! Enjoy!


Monday, October 8, 2012

A Squash Adventure: Acorn Squash Puree

While visiting my buddy AnnaJean, I noticed she had some local squash on her counter.  So at her request, I am posting this recipe for Acorn Squash Puree. It is super yummy for kids and adults alike! Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos the last time I made it, but we have all seen acorn squash before. So here is the next installment in our Squash Adventure!

Exhibit B: Acorn Squash—shaped like an acorn, the rind is thick and dark green and the inside is a soft orange color that deepens when it is cooked. It has a very mild flavor, and the flesh is very similar in texture to sweet potato that is slightly undercooked.  It keeps on the counter for a LONG time. As long as it is still firm and without mold you can cook it up! It is readily available at most supermarkets and farmer’s markets.

I have had this squash a variety of ways. When I think of fall squash, this is the one I picture on the plate—cut in half, bright orange and beautiful, drizzled with maple syrup and sprinkle with pecans.  But this is also really great mashed into a puree as a side dish. It also makes this squash choice more friendly for those who do not like the consistency of plain squash. So here is a really easy recipe you can whip up in a flash!

Acorn Squash Puree
1 acorn squash
3 Tbsp maple syrup
¼ cup milk
1 Tbsp butter
Pinch of cinnamon
Brown sugar, to top with if desired

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds and pulp. Score the squash with a knife into squares. Brush the squash with maple syrup. Bake for 45min to 60 minutes, until the squash is soft.

Scoop out the flesh into a glass bowl. With a handheld mixer or immersion blender puree the flesh with the remaining ingredients. You may need to add a bit more milk if it isn’t smoothing to your preference. Top with brown sugar and more butter if desired. This puree may also be frozen and would make a yummy baby food choice for your little one!


Monday, October 1, 2012

A Squash Adventure: Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Pesto

At the farmer’s market this weekend you might have noticed we are in squash heaven. Goodbye berries—hello winter foods. Growing up squash was NOT something that my siblings or I looked forward to and mostly it was because of the texture.  I have come to realize that the joys of the squash are really in the preparation.  I’ve decided to try every squash I can get my hands on this year—there are so many varieties to choose from!

Exhibit A: Spaghetti Squash: a light yellow oval shaped squash that is widely available. It has a yellow flesh that becomes stringy when heated, with strings about the size of thin spaghetti pasta. It is mild in flavor with just a bit of squashiness—slightly sweet with a mildly earthy aftertaste.

Spaghetti squash is a really fun one and is so versatile! I’ve actually been cooking this guy for about a year and find it can be subbed for pasta in just about any dish, though I find its hint of sweetness pairs perfectly with pesto sauce.  This is a very low-cal, healthy recipe I’ve converted to a casserole. You can whip this up in a snap! I prefer to cook my squash in the microwave, but you can also roast it in the oven as well.  Let’s make dinner!

Spaghetti Squash Casserole with Pesto
1 6-8 inch long spaghetti squash
¼ cup fresh pesto sauce: Sweet Basil Pesto Recipe
¾ cup 2% milk
1 tsp Italian herb blend
½ tsp salt
Pepper to taste
½ cup shredded asiago or parmesan cheese
6 stalks kale, chopped or 2 cups baby spinach
11/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the squash lengthwise and scoop out seeds and mushy pulp. Cooking one half of the squash at a time, place the half cut-side down in I cup of water in a microwave safe glass pie plate. Microwave on high for 4 minutes cut-side down. Flip and microwave for 4 more minutes cut-side up, then turn over and microwave for 1-2 minutes more until it is soft to the touch. This steams the squash and it will be very hot when you remove it. Allow to sit until it is cool enough to handle. Repeat with the second half of the squash.

Meanwhile, cook the kale or spinach in salted water. I used kale today. I placed the kale in a sauce pan covered, and steamed with 1 cup of water for 3-5 minutes. Drain.

Scoop the cooled squash flesh out with a spoon, gently scraping the inside of the rind and dump into a glass bowl. Combine with the pesto, herbs, salt, milk and shredded asiago/parmesan cheese. Stir in the cooked chopped kale.

Scrap the squash mixture into a 9 x 13 glass or stone casserole dish. Top with the shredded cheese.Bake for 20-30 minutes until the sauce and cheese is bubbly.

This dish makes amazing leftovers--in fact, mine are reheating right now.... Let me know if you like it!

Thanks for reading,

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Minnesota Tater Tot Hotdish with Turkey

I have to be honest--growing up this was the dinner I feared the most. I believe ours had a can of green beans, cream of mushroom soup, ground beef and tater tots -- I didn't think there could be a worse combination. What was everyone thinking?? I avoided this potluck staple like the plague!  But today I became a true Minnesotan.  And I can’t believe what I've been missing! 

This recipe is based on my dear friend Emily Galegher’s tater tot hotdish. Her recipe blew my socks off! She skips the canned everything and uses ground turkey. My adaptation uses 2% milk for the sauce, but Emily uses real cream for her white sauce…delish and dangerous. I also suggest par-cooking the tater tots so they keep their crispiness when added to the hotdish. So now the hotdish to end all hotdishes—

Minnesota Tater Tot Hotdish with Turkey
1lb  ground turkey breast
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper
3 Tbsp butter
1 cup diced baby bella mushrooms
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
½ tsp ground oregano
½ tsp paprika
3 Tbsp flour
2 cups 2% milk
10oz bag mixed baby vegetables
16oz bag of tater tots

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Melt  1 Tbsp butter in a cast iron skillet. Saute the onion for 5 minutes. Add the ground turkey and spices and brown the turkey completely. Stir in the remaining 2 Tbsp of butter and the mushrooms. Cook for 3 minutes.  Add the flour and cook for 1 minute. Add the milk and cook until thickened to a gravy—about 5 minutes over medium heat. Stir in the Worcestershire sauce. Salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile bake the tater tots for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Thaw and cook the vegetables in the microwave and drain completely.

Heat the oven to 450 degrees. Add the vegetables to the cast-iron and stir. Top with the hot tater tots. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the sauce bubbles and the tater tots are browned to your preference.

I hope you enjoy this reinvented Minnesota legend!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Kitchen Sink Sweet Corn Soup with Bacon

What to make for dinner...Hmm… I’ve got some bacon, questionable freezer corn, wilted cilantro, can of green chilis…Corn Soup! That is about the thought that went into this supper. But what came out—SOUPER DELICIOUS! I hope you enjoy this easy summer soup. I bet you have these things lying in the back of your freezer and pantry somewhere. But if you have some fresh sweet corn, please substitute!

Sweet Corn Soup with Bacon
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 stalks of celery, diced
6 thick strips (about 5 ounces) good bacon
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
12 oz can condensed cream of chicken soup, I use Pacific Organic
4oz can diced green chilis
16 oz bag frozen sweet corn
½ diced red pepper
Salt and pepper
Green onion, cilantro and sour cream
Tortilla chips

In a bit of canola oil, saute onion with celery until translucent—about 10 minutes. Add bacon and continue to cook until the bacon is cooked through.  Empty the bag of sweet corn into the pot and sauté for 5 minutes. 
(You'll notice I didn't drain the bacon...that was on purpose. Yum.)

Stir in the broth, condensed soup and green chilis and bring to a boil. Add the diced red pepper and reduce the heat. Simmer the soup for 15-20 minutes covered until the corn is cooked through and begins to break down.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle the soup into bowls and allow to cool slightly. Stir in a tablespoon of sour cream, and a bit of green onion and cilantro. Top with crushed tortilla chips and serve. 

Time to eat! Enjoy!


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Banana Bran Muffins with Walnuts

I love banana bread, muffins—you name it. Last week it was Banana Snack Cake, but this week with still more overripe bananas to spare, I’m all about muffins. I’ve adapted this recipe from Eating Well. If you haven’t heard of it, this magazine is definitely worth checking out. It is one of my favorite food magazines because it has lots of healthy ideas and each issue centers around what’s in season. 

I've made these muffins Finn-style. Viili is a Finnish cultured milk that is essentially a yogurt. If you would like to start culturing, I will give you some starter! But if you are far away, or you can’t wait, you can substitute the viili for plain fat-free yogurt. 

Banana Bran Muffins with Walnuts
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
3 medium super-ripe bananas
2/3 cup viili or plain (not greek) yogurt + 1/3 cup skim milk
1 cup wheat bran
3 Tbsp flax seed
1/4 cup safflower oil
1 teaspoon vanilla or coconut extract
Dry ingredients:
1 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour, such as Gold Medal
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1/3 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 400. Grease your muffin tin (12) with canola spray.

In a large glass bowl, whisk together the egg, brown sugar, milk and viili until well blended. Mash the ripe peeled bananas in a small bowl. Add the bananas to the wet egg mixture along with the canola oil, vanilla, flax seeds and wheat bran. Whisk until well combined. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, toss the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon together with your fingers until fluffed and well combined.  Pour the dry ingredients on top of the wet ingredients and add the chocolate chips. With a rubber scraper gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet until they are just barely mixed. The batter with be lumpy. Be careful not to over mix or the batter will become tough.

Spoon the batter into your muffin tins and fill until they are just barely to the top. The batter is heavy with bran, so these will not rise as high as typical muffins.  Sprinkle the chopped walnuts on top of the muffins. The walnuts will get nice and toasted! Mmmm….

Place the muffins on the center rack and bake for 15-25 minutes until they are golden brown and spring back when touched.

I hope you enjoy this healthy treat! Go Bananas!

Tip: Ever wonder what to do with the left over muffin batter?
I have found that my muffin tins are small enough that there is always some left over batter. Rather than wait for the batch to cook and refill the tin, I found the thing for this very problem:  the mini-loaf pan. At a thrift shop a bit ago I found this adorable mini loaf pan. I have a weakness for anything milk glass, so I bought it and finally through this muffin making have found its calling. If you have one lying around, here is one way to get that thing dusted off and in use again!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Southwestern Pot-Pie

The last couple of months have been crazy busy, so I apologize for the absence! I was playing in Thunder Bay, we moved to a new apartment, we eradicated a pest problem, I taught in Salt Lake City, stayed in Park City, and then I did a Suzuki training in Denver. Even though it was more work than vacation, I do have lots of fun recipes, restaurants and vendors to tell you about. Stay tuned for some fun posts in the coming weeks.

Now that I am home, it is time to make some good old-fashioned comfort food.  After talking with my buddy Emily Galegher about pie crusts and how I always forget to use them in my recipes, I decided tonight is the perfect night for a Utah inspired pot-pie!

Southwestern Pot-Pie
1 lb ground turkey breast
1 large onion, diced
2 jalapenos, seeded and minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 ears of corn, kernels removed
1 tsp dried oregano
1 ½ Tbsp ground cumin
Dash black pepper, paprika, cayenne pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup light sour cream
1 ½ cups Mexican melting cheese like enchilado, queso quesadilla, or monterey jack
½ cup green onions, chopped
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Finnish Cottage Cheese Pie Crust
(see previous post)

In a cast iron skillet or oven proof fry pan, cook onion in 1 tbsp of canola oil until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add your minced green pepper, garlic and corn and sauté for 3 minutes. Stir in ground turkey breast and cook completely. Pour in spices and chicken broth and allow the mixture to reduce for about 3 minutes on high heat.

Remove from heat and stir in sour cream and cheese. Bring back to the stove on medium-low and simmer 10-15 minutes stirring constantly until the mixture bubbles and thickens --when you stir you can see the bottom of the pan clearly, and your spoon makes a track. Remove from the heat again and stir in green onion and cilantro.

Roll cottage cheese pie crust so that it is large enough to rest ½ inch up the side of the pan. Vent with a knife and spray the top of the crust with canola oil.

Bake at 400 degrees until the pie crust is golden brown, about 30 minutes.Let the pie cool 10 minutes before serving. Top with chopped cilantro, salsa, avocado and sour cream. 

I hope you enjoy!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sweet Basil Walnut Pesto

It’s springtime and time for everything green! One of our most favorite spreads and sauces is pesto. Store-bought pesto is pretty pricey, and making your own can be too (especially if you use pine nuts). We came up with a thrifty recipe that uses less oil and walnuts. It is just as good. This recipe makes LOTS but it freezes really well.  In fact, we had pesto tonight from last September. This is a recipe you will want to have on hand when your garden is bursting with basil this summer.

Sweet Basil Walnut Pesto
6 cups loosely-packed, washed basil leaves
1 cup of your favorite hard cheese, shredded 
       (like aged gouda, parmesan, asiago...)
1/3 cup walnuts
3 Tbsp herbed white wine vinegar
2 -3 cloves of garlic, minced
½ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

In a small fry pan, toast walnuts over medium -heat until fragrant and beginning to brown. Remove from the pan to cool.

In a food processor, chop the basil, walnuts, cheese and garlic. Add the white wine vinegar and gradually add the oil. Puree until it reaches your desired consistency, scraping the sides of the bowl as necessary. We like ours a little chunkier, so we only pulse, but you can make this as smooth as you like.

Pesto will keep in the refrigerator for a week, or you can freeze for about 3-4 months. It has been 5 months for our pesto and it was still good! You will only use about ¼ cup for 4 people. You can also freeze in an ice-cube tray and then put in a zippy for single servings.

Got other herbs/greens in your garden?  You can make pesto out of anything-- even a combination of herbs and greens. It is a great way to experiment and use up every bit of whatever in your garden. I have even seen recipes that use jalapeno and anaheim peppers, too. Yum! Got a favorite pesto combination? I would love to hear it!

Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken
Here is a fun and tasty way to enjoy your pesto sauce using ingredients you probably have around the house. You can substitute chickpeas or cannellini beans for your protein if you like. Enjoy!

6 oz whole-wheat pasta
¼ cup pesto
¼ cup half and half (can be fat-free)
4 Tbsp low-fat cream cheese or Neufchatel
½ cup reserved pasta water

Combine the noodles with the cream cheese and ½ cup of reserved pasta water. Toss in the pesto and the half and half. Serve with chickpeas or chicken breast and a green salad. Serves 4.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs & Healthy Egg Salad

I haven’t always been a fan of hard-boiled eggs. Actually, it was really the yolks that were a turn off as a kid—I didn’t like the texture (unless it was blended into something like mayo!). But when I started having them in restaurants, I came to love them! The whites weren’t rubbery, there wasn’t an ugly green ring around the yolk and the yolk was so delicate and creamy. Yum! I’ve tried making my own, but they were never as good as the ones I ordered…until now. After a lot of trial and error, I believe this is secret to the perfect restaurant-worthy hard-boiled egg.

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs
12 fresh large eggs
Cold water

In a large saucepan, cover the eggs with cold water until there is an inch of water above the tops of the eggs. Bring the eggs to a boil and cook exactly one minute. Remove from the heat and cover immediately. Let them sit for exactly 12 minutes.  

 Immediately drain the hot water gently into the sink. Place the saucepan until the water faucet and run the coldest water possible over the eggs, stirring the water gently with your hands. When the eggs are completely chilled remove from the water and enjoy! If you like, you can shell them immediately, or if you need them, later here is a trick:
                Bring a large pot to boil and drop each egg in for one second. Remove and peel immediately.

Healthy Egg Salad
Now that I finally discovered how to make eggs without having a complete disaster on my hands, I like to make this egg salad-- It’s a recipe inspired by Eating Well’s Deviled Egg recipe.

5 hard-boiled eggs, peeled
2 Tbsp light mayo
1/3 cup cottage cheese
1 stalk of celery, finely diced
1 green onion, chopped
¼ tsp onion powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp prepared yellow mustard
Dash black pepper and cayenne

In a food processor, combine the cottage cheese, mayo and mustard. Remove the yolks from two of the eggs and add to the cottage cheese mixture. Process until smooth and creamy.  Discard the other three yolks and chop the whites from the 5 eggs. In a small bowl combine the celery, green onion and the cottage cheese mixture. Season to taste with pepper and cayenne, garnish with paprika if desired and serve!  This makes 3 sandwiches. Yum! Hope this helps you use up some of those Easter eggs!

Egg Salad per serving (3): 110 calories      6grams fat      11grams protein

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Mustikkapiiraka is the Finnish word for Blueberry Pie: mustikka=blueberry and piiraka=pie. Traditionally this pie is made on a flat baking sheet rather than in a pie plate. This gives you lots of room to be artistic with the dough, shape and design.  I made it in this traditional, rustic style for Easter—but I couldn’t resist spicing it up with a drizzle of Lavender Cream.  Here is the recipe I created after lots of research:

Finnish Blueberry Pie
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of cardamom
1 ½ sticks cold salted butter, cubed
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
¼ cup heavy cream

3 cups frozen wild blueberries
1/3 cup sugar (I like raw cane sugar for this one:)
2 Tbsp + 1 tsp corn starch

Combine the cardamom, flours and sugar in a medium glass bowl. Using a pastry blender, work the butter into the flour until only pea-sized chunks remain. Gently beat the egg and cream together and add to the flour mixture. Once combined, knead gently and make into a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 5 minutes.

In another bowl, gently toss the blueberries in the sugar and cornstarch until they are well coated.

Using a generous amount of flour, turn the dough out onto the counter and roll out into large circle about 1/4 inch thick.  Lay a large dinner plate (about 12 inches) on the rolled dough and using as your guide, cut two inches out from the edge to form a clean 14 inch circle. Keep scraps for decorating the top later. Roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll onto a large baking sheet with an edge.

Mound the blueberries into the center of the circle and spread to fill about 12 inches. Fold in the outside edge of the dough on top of the blueberries to make about 1 to 1 1/2 inches around, pinching on the folds as necessary.  Roll and cut the remaining dough scraps to make your desired pattern on top of the pie. You can sprinkle the dough with sugar, or use an egg wash if you like.

Bake for 30-40 minutes at 400 degrees until the crust is golden brown and the blueberries are thick and bubbly. Serves 8.

Lavender Cream
In a saucepan combine 1 1/2 cups heavy cream, ¼ cup honey and 1 tsp lavender or 1 TBSP earl grey tea with lavender.  Over medium low heat, bring to a bubble and reduce to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Using cheese cloth or a tea bag, strain into a glass bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve. Best served cold over the warm pie. This would also be a great base for ice cream or whipped cream;)

I hope you enjoy this Finnish delight!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Finnish Cottage Cheese Pastry Crust

Rahkakuori is a traditional cottage cheese pastry that is used for everything from quiche to blueberry tarts. I was inspired by the one in Bea Ojakangas’  Scandinavian Cooking book and have adapted it to use less butter, more cottage cheese and whole-wheat flour. Whole wheat crusts are known for being a bit more dry, but with the cottage cheese, this crust is deliciously moist and flaky—and I think better than traditional pie crust! It makes for a very flexible dough that is easy to work with AND it’s quick and healthy! Try it with your favorite filling. This is scaled for a single 9-inch crust. Yum!

Whole-Wheat Rahkakuori
½ cup whole-wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
¾ cup low-fat cottage cheese
5 Tbsp salted butter, cold

In a medium glass bowl combine the flours. Cut cold butter into cubes and using a pastry blender, work into the dough until you see pea-sized crumbles. Add the cottage cheese and combine—the dough will be crumbly. Gently work the dough into a ball.

Tips: If the ball is just barely sticking to your hands it's perfect! I did not need to add anything to mine, but some cottage cheeses are very wet. Use your instincts.  If the dough is wet and not holding its shape, you may need to add a Tbsp or 2 more of whole-wheat flour. If is dough is very dry and does not form a ball, add a Tbsp or 2 of ice cold water.

Wrap the ball in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for 10 minutes. Dust a board or the counter generously with whole-wheat flour and roll out, flipping and dusting as necessary. Gently roll the dough onto the rolling pin and unroll over your glass or stone pie plate. Crimp the edges, and prick with a fork. Fill according to your favorite recipe! (If it is a long baking pie, consider foiling over the crimped edge and removing towards the end of cooking.)

I used this recipe to make my Spring Quiche! I hope you enjoy this recipe as you begin your holiday baking!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Tuna Sandwich for One

I’ve been trying to eat more fish and so tuna for lunch it is! Here is a simple tuna salad sandwich that I like to make. If you haven’t tried the no-drain tuna pouches, do! (Especially if you think you don’t like tuna…) The flavor is much fresher than the traditional canned variety that may have turned you off in the past. They have pouches available in many sizes, but the 2.6 ounce ones are the equivalent of one serving which is perfect for this recipe. Give it a try!

Tuna Sandwich for One
2.6 oz pouch chunk light tuna
2 Tbsp plain greek yogurt
1 Tbsp low-fat canola or olive oil mayo
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1 green onion, chopped
¼ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp onion powder
Dash of pepper, cayenne and paprika

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl until well mixed. Toast a piece of multi-grain bread or half of a bagel and top with mixed greens. Spoon the tuna over the greens and enjoy!

Strawberry-Spinach Smoothie

Spinach in a smoothie? Really?! Yes. Really.  
This fruity treat is so tasty you will not even notice that hint of healthy green. It’s an easy drink to whip up for a snack or quick breakfast using items you already have on hand.  Also great with blueberries! If you don’t have protein powder, add a bit of your favorite sweetener or use some sweetened yogurt.  Enjoy!

Strawberry-Spinach Smoothie
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 medium banana
1 cup fresh baby spinach, loosely packed
½ cup plain greek yogurt ( I use 0% Fage)
2/3 cup skim milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 scoop favorite protein powder (like Biochem’s 100%Whey)
6 ice cubes

Combine all ingredients except the baby spinach in a blender until smooth. Add the spinach and blend until just incorporated. (Otherwise you will end up a brown smoothie;). Pour and enjoy. This recipe serves one for breakfast or two for a snack. 

I have been traveling, but now I’m back and have lots of great recipes and ideas to share. Keep checking for more fun entries this week!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Fried Rice with Beef

Fried Rice—the ancient one pot wonder. While grocery shopping I found some cheap pre-cut lean beef meant for “oriental” dishes. I wasn’t sure what to do with it until I came up with this! Here is a super easy recipe for fried rice that you can scale to any number of diners. This serves about four, but Kent and I follow it as is because it makes for sensational leftovers. Don’t be scared away by the number of ingredients—you likely have most of these in your fridge already. Time for some chow!

Fried Rice with Beef
1 lb lean stir-fry beef, cut into thin strips
1 small red onion, diced
2/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup beef broth
1 tsp corn starch
1 head of broccoli, chopped
2 small sweet peppers, diced
1 egg
1 ½ cups uncooked brown basmati rice
Fresh cilantro for garnish
2 Tbsp seasame oil
Chili oil or red pepper flakes, optional

In a small mixing bowl, create a marinade using 1/3 cup soy sauce, 1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger and 1 clove of garlic. Add the beef and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

While the beef is marinating, combine 3 cups water and the brown rice with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 50-60 minutes. Test for doneness and fluff with a fork. When the rice is completely cooked, remove the cover, and take off the heat to stop the cooking process.

*You will notice I specified brown basmati rice.  I think this rice works great and is worth the extra $. It is a firmer and nuttier variety and holds up well to the dark flavors of the beef and soy sauce. Plus is it high in fiber! Look for it in the bulk grocery section where you can buy exactly as much as you need.

In a wok or deep-sided frying pan, heat  1 Tbsp of sesame oil.  Spoon the beef into the hot pan allowing most of the marinade to stay in the bowl and discard. Over high heat, cook the beef to desired doneness and remove from the pan.

Add a second tablespoon of oil to the wok and sauté the onions and broccoli in any remaining juices. When the broccoli has browned, add the peppers, and rest of the ginger and garlic.  Working over medium-high heat, saute 2 -3 minutes until the peppers are cooked. Pour in the beef broth.

In a small bowl, mix the remaining 1/3 cup soy sauce with the 1 tsp of corn starch to make a slurry. Pour into the hot wok with the veggies. Cook for 2 minutes until the sauce begins to thicken.  If spice is desired add red pepper flakes now, or better yet chili oil if you have it. Mmm.

Move to veggies over to find the bottom of the pan and crack in the egg. Scramble the egg and cook for 1 minute and then mix into the veggies. Add the cooked rice and stir until well combined. Then remove from the heat.Serve immediately garnished with a bit of cilantro and more chili oil if you like it REALLY spicy. Time to eat!

Once you have the rice cooked and your veggies prepped, it only takes about 5 minutes to make this dish. This really comes together fast! If you have a rice cooker, this is a great time to dig it out so you have one less thing to think about. The recipe works great with any veggies, so feel free to substitute anything you have in your crisper bin!

I hope have fun making this dish! Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Chunky Choco-Butter Bars

Confession: I’m not much of a baker. I used to make cookies all the time in college, but have kind of gotten out of it. Maybe it is because in cooking you never have to admit defeat—you can always add a little of this and a dash of that to fix it. It isn’t that way with baking. If you don’t measure properly you can expect an epic failure. Or worse you make it exactly as it says in The (insert church’s name here) Cookbook from 1989 and it just flops. Urggg.

But recently I was at my friend Sarah’s house and she made these AMAZING bars. She said they were easy and wasn’t kidding—they only take about 20 minutes to make. Plus they only use 1 egg! How many times have you opened the refrigerator after whipping butter and sugar only to find you have one egg when the recipe calls for two? (If your name is Nikki, too many times…)

Chunky Choco-Butter Bars
Easy and oh –so-peanut buttery, this is what every baker (or non-baker) needs in their recipe file: a quick crowd-pleaser.

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup creamy peanut butter
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 egg!
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups of your favorite chocolate chips, dark, semi-sweet or milk*

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the flour and baking powder in a small bowl and set aside.

In a medium sized bowl, beat both sugars, peanut butter, and butter until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix well. Gradually add the flour mixture until mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips. The mixture will be a bit crumbly. That is part of what makes these tasty!

Press firmly into an ungreased glass or metal 9 x 13 baking pan.
Bake for 18-22 minutes until the center is set.

Allow to cool 10 minutes and serve immediately. Or later cut into bars and microwave for 10 seconds until warm. Pour a glass of milk and enjoy!

*I often have partial bags of a variety of chocolate chips around either left over from recipes or because I couldn’t resist eating them out of the bag! I now keep a jar in my fridge where I empty the remnants for snacking or to collect until I get two cups. This recipe my jar was about half milk and half dark chocolate chunks. It was perfect!

More baking recipes to come! Let me know what you‘d like to see :)

Friday, March 2, 2012

Mexi-cado Dip

I was all set to enter this recipe in a local contest when I found I’d missed the submission date! So here it is-- Let me know what you think!

This is a modern take on guacamole using the cheese I keep raving about: cotija
It is such a perfect cheese, truly! It is the kind of addition that just keeps making you want more…and more...Sized for a large crowd, this is the perfect friend to bring to your next party. Enjoy!

Mexi-cado Dip
3 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 lime
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 large hass avocados
6 oz fresh cotija cheese

In a medium glass mixing bowl, combine the tiny diced tomatoes, jalapeno (with the seeds this time—spicy!), garlic, green onion and cilantro. Squeeze half of the lime over the mixture and allow to marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes.

In a separate mixing bowl, combine the seeded and peeled avocados, olive oil and the rest of the lime’s juice. Whip until the avocado is smooth and a bit fluffy.

Return to the medium bowl with the tomato mixture. Crumble and shred the cotija cheese into the bowl. Add the beans. Stir until well combined. Gently fold the avocado mixture into the tomato cheese relish.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

*If bringing to share at a party, gently press a piece of cling wrap down onto the dip to seal it from the air so it doesn’t brown as quickly. Stir and serve!

Delicious with chips, but also on top of burritos, tacos, salad—whatever!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cheesy Broccoli Soup

I often crave a dinner filled with delicious fresh vegetables—crisp salad, steamed asparagus…just kidding. I very rarely crave that, and especially not in the dead of winter. So soup it is! You can have your veggies without batting an eye in this yummy, creamy and low-fat soup adapted from Cooking Light.

Cheesy Broccoli Soup
16oz bag frozen broccoli florets
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
3 small cloves of garlic, minced
4 Tbsp flour (optional)*
3 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
3 cups 2% milk
8oz light Velveeta Cheese (2%)
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large sauce pan, sauté the diced onion and celery in a tablespoon of olive oil until soft. Add the garlic (and flour--optional) and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the chicken broth and add the frozen broccoli. Bring to a boil and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until the broccoli is soft. If there are any extra large pieces of broccoli, break apart with the stirring spoon or remove and chop. Cut the Velveeta cheese into 1 inch cubes.

Reduce the heat to low and pour in the milk.  Carefully add in the cheeses and stir constantly until completely melted. With your immersion blender, puree the soup until half of the broccoli is blended.  You can also remove half of the soup and puree in a blender or food processor. Season with pepper and salt, if desired.

*If you like your soup really thick, you can add flour when you add the garlic to the onions and celery. As you cook it for one minute, it will bind with the oil/juices and act as a thickener with the broth. You could also add a potato or cauliflower as a thickener. This recipe reflects my tastes: a little less cheesy and a little less thick than your typical restaurant variety.

I have been making this soup for a long time and hope it becomes an easy weeknight staple in your kitchen. Using fresh or frozen broccoli works just as well so use up whatever you’ve got and enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Wild Blueberry and Pecan Oatmeal

Kent and I love a steaming bowl of oatmeal in the morning—especially on a cold winter’s day. Traditional rolled oats cooked over the stove are amazing and much superior to the instant variety. And they are still a quick breakfast taking only about 5 minutes to cook! You can usually find them in the bulk section of the grocery store. Then pop over to the freezer and try my latest obsession: Wyman’s Wild Blueberries.  I eat these little guys straight from the bag! They are so sweet and make a great midday (or midnight :) snack. These wild blueberries are really quite affordable and the perfect addition to yogurt, muffins, waffles—and of course, Oatmeal!

Wild Blueberry Pecan Oatmeal
2 cups cooked old-fashioned rolled oats
2 Tbsp brown sugar
¼ cup chopped pecans
½ cup frozen wild blueberries
Pinch of cinnamon
Steamed milk

Cook oats according to package directions and to desired consistency. Stir in the brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Remove from heat once the sugar has dissolved. Gently fold in the wild blueberries, being careful not to puncture their delicate skin (or you will have purple oatmeal:) Spoon into two bowls and pour the steamed milk over the top.  Yum!

A note: If you like your oats a little more firm, decrease the water by ¼ cup and add more towards the end of the cooking time as needed. When the berries stay whole, they kind of burst in your mouth as you eat, releasing all of their delicious juice. So fun! Keep them frozen, so they are less likely to break. The heat of the oatmeal will thaw them completely.

Wyman’s Wild Blueberries are produced in Maine and Prince Edward Island, Canada. A family owned company, they are available in many grocery stores and now also online! They are committed to sustainability and healthy farm practices. Read about them here:

I hope you enjoy this delicious, and healthy, breakfast treat!