Monday, February 28, 2011

Portobello Panini

I made this little "sandwich" for my husband last week as a special treat just for him. It's true, I have really embraced the mushroom lately, but I still am not quite sure if I'm ready for this Portobello Panini. Why? Because it is a sandwich where you use two halves of a portobello mushroom in place of the bread. This blew my husband's mind, in the best possible way! I tend to like my bread, so I think I could probably do this one if I sandwiched the portobello in bread, but in the meantime let me tell you about this one.

So this is an Ellie Krieger recipe, as so many of the things that I've been making lately have been. I love the fact that her cookbooks are so easy to revisit again and again and again. As my tastes change, I'm amazed at how looking through her cookbooks just makes me want to try so many more new things! It's like the gift that keeps on giving, kinda.

But back to this panini. It's so simple, and it just takes mere minutes. Simply split a large portobello mushroom cap in half lengthwise, then assemble the innards of your "sandwich." I deviated from Ellie's version a bit here, making it with prosciutto, jalapeno cheddar, and the recommended sun-dried tomatoes which have been reconstituted with some hot water. I wanted to do this as a Meatless Mondays entry, but then I remembered that I had thrown the prosciutto in there! Whoops. This would be very easy to transform into vegetarian, though. That's the way Ellie did it!

Once you have your sandwich, you can grill it up as you would a regular panini. Just brush some oil on there, throw it on a grill pan or griddle, and cook until dark brown and the cheese is melty. That's it. And when my hubby's eyes lit up at the sight of this panini, I felt so good knowing that I can whip this one up again and again with next to no time or effort taken up by it.

Portobello Panini
adapted from Ellie Krieger
makes 1 "sandwich"

1 large portobello mushroom cap
Vegetable cooking spray
1 or 2 large sundried tomatoes, reconstituted in hot water and sliced thinly
1 oz. jalapeno cheddar cheese (or any cheese of your choice)
1 oz. prosciutto, sliced into thin strips
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. olive oil

1. Slice the stem off the mushroom so it can lie completely flat. Slice it in half lengthwise and lay open (I turned the bottom, "gilly" part over so that it was hidden on the inside of the sandwich).

2. Spray a large nonstick skillet or grill pan with cooking spray and preheat over medium-high heat. Top the bottom half of the mushroom with the sundried tomatoes, cheese, and prosciutto. Cap with the other mushroom round. Brush one side of the sandwich with half the olive oil, then lay it oil-side down in the hot skillet. Brush the other side with the remaining oil.

3. Cook the panini for 2 minutes per side, until the mushroom is nice and dark-brown and the cheese has melted. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Devil's Food Cake with Angel Frosting

It's time for another Baked Sunday Morning! And what better way to end the weekend than by talking about cake? Chocolate cake, in fact. Moist, dark, delightfully sweet chocolate cake. Oh, and did I mention the perfectly fluffy Italian meringue icing? No? Well, feast your eyes on the picture below!

I could go gushing on and on about this frosting forever, possibly. I just love everything about it. I love the fact that I've become pretty proficient at making it, and know how it's supposed to look when it's ready. I love the voluminous, marshmallowy, luxurious yet light texture. I love the fact that it's actually fat-free, which is so hard to believe when you taste it! The only bummer about the frosting is the fact that you need to serve it pretty much right away. That makes for a challenge when you don't really have a need or occasion for a chocolate cake with this lovely frosting on top. I made this cake in two parts. The cake layers were made late one afternoon, and then the meringue frosting was made in the morning, right before my husband was to take this cake in to work.

I am hardly a master cake decorator. In fact, my skills still kind of embarrass me, but I've been working on it! Cakes like this give me opportunities to practice, and I love that. This one was pretty easy to frost; again, to praise that meringue frosting, it was a dream to work with! It was so simple to make the frosting smooth, and then it was fun to give little frosting "peaks" to the top of the cake. I grated some milk chocolate down over top, too, just to give it a little something extra. The cake was hugely well-received at work; my husband came home with just some crumbs left on the plate! In fact, it made me pretty sad, as I had wanted to try a slice. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed making this cake, and my hubby and I are already trying to come up with an occasion for me to make it again!

The full recipe is posted over at Baked Sunday Mornings. Make sure to stop over there and check it out if you're interested!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

CEIMB: L.O.V.E. Wrap Sandwich

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly was a very simple, yet totally delicious, wrap sandwich. Ellie calls it the L.O.V.E. Wrap because it contains lettuce (L), onion (O), veggies (V), and egg (E). Plus, it makes quite a "love"-able sandwich, so the name does fit. This week's selection was made by Joanne of Apple Crumbles.

I assembled the ingredients for this wrap gradually, leisurely. I hard-boiled the eggs the day before we were to eat then, and chopped the bell peppers and onions early as well. I set aside just enough egg for my husband's wrap, and I mashed his together with the mayo and mustard. Since I normally cannot stomach mustard, unless it is totally mixed into something, and mayo makes me kinda sick, I just opted to eat my egg sandwich sans dressing. I didn't mind this at all; in fact, I sort of appreciated the simplicity. However, my husband raved about his mayo/mustard/egg mixture! So forgive me for not being able to speak from personal experience, but I do trust his opinion. So it was really good!

Thanks to Joanne for the quick, easy pick this week! I will definitely be keeping this one in mind when Easter rolls around, and I have more hard-boiled eggs than I know what to do with. If you'd like the recipe, it's on Food Network's site, here. For the CEIMB blogroll, click here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Asian Chicken Burgers on Pretzel Rolls

This post is going to be a two-fer. Not only will you get a recipe for a juicy, flavorful, unique chicken burger, you will also get a recipe for the bun you serve the burger in! I recently saw both of these recipes in Food Network Magazine, and I immediately got the urge to try them together.

First, let me talk about these pretzel rolls. They come from Food Network personalty Guy Fieri, who incidentally has been making soft pretzels since he was just a kid. You learn something new every day! Anyway, I skipped right over the recipes in the article for stuffed pretzels, and went straight for these Pretzel Rolls. We've bought pretzel rolls and eaten them here at home, and we've always thought they were so good. There's just something about the combination of yummy burger and soft, slightly salty pretzel roll that I find hard to resist. A match made in heaven!

Though making these pretzel rolls is a guaranteed time commitment, I firmly believe that they are worth it. The dough is very simple and very easy to work with. I had a blast forming the rolls; the hard part was just waiting through the two rise times. Once they have risen, you throw them in a huge pot of boiling water and baking soda, just for a couple minutes each, and that gives them their unique, pretzel-y crust. You take them from the water, drain them, and then transfer them to a baking sheet. Sprinkle them with some salt, and they're ready to be baked!

I was so excited when I peeked into the oven and saw that they were forming a crusty top, and I could already tell that they smelled like pretzels! I probably could have baked them even longer than I did; they're a bit lighter than pretzels tend to be. Inside, though, they were unbelievably soft and tender, yet they held together quite well and were the perfect vessel for a burger.

Man, that burger! I haven't even told you about it yet! It's an Asian Chicken Burger, and it tastes pretty much just as it sounds. There's a variety of Asian flavors included in the patty, such as soy sauce, sambal oelek, and hoisin sauce. You grate down a bunch of onion, carrot, and ginger and add it to the rest of the ingredients. I couldn't get over just how moist the grated veggies made the burgers! You totally couldn't tell I used such lean meat in the patties; there was so much flavor and good burger texture. You top off the burgers with a marinated mushroom and red onion mixture, and that just makes the whole thing. Oh, it was yummy! Some may say that an Asian burger with a pretzel roll is an odd pairing, and I may be inclined to agree. But I've tasted it, and I'm here to tell you that it worked! Plus, it was just super cool to be able to say, "Hey, honey, I made burgers for dinner, from scratch! Including the buns!"

Guy's Pretzel Rolls
makes 4-6 rolls

1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling (I used fleur de sel for sprinkling)
Vegetable oil, for the bowl
Cooking spray
1/3 cup baking soda

1. Put 1 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees F) in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside to bloom, 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl.

2. Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture and mix with the dough hook on the lowest setting until the dough comes together. Increase the speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough is elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes.

3. Form the dough into a ball, place in a large, oiled bowl, and turn the dough to coat it with oil. Cover with a damp kitchen towel and let rest in a warm place until doubled in size, 30 to 35 minutes. Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone baking mat, coat generously with cooking spray, and set aside.

4. Punch down the dough, then turn out onto a floured surface. Knead just until the dough is smooth and springs back when poked, about 1 minute. Divide into 4 pieces and form into 5-by-5-inch oblong rolls. Place the rolls on the prepared baking sheet and cut four 2-inch diagonal slashes across the top of each. Cover with a damp towel or cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat.

5. Stir the baking soda into the boiling water (it will foam up slightly). Add 2 rolls and poach 2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, remove the rolls, drain, and place on the baking sheet, cut-side up. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat with the reamining rolls.

6. Bake the rolls until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool slightly on the baking sheet before enjoying.

Asian Chicken Burgers
makes 4 to 6 burgers

Cooking spray
1 small carrot
1 small red onion, halved
1 lb. ground chicken (I used a combination of 99% lean ground chicken and lean turkey)
1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. grated, peeled ginger
4 tsp. low-sodium soy sauce
3 tsp. hot Asian chili sauce, such as sambal oelek
8 oz. white mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
Juice of 1 lime
4-6 burger buns

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Mist a baking sheet with cooking spray. Grate the carrot and 1/2 onion into a large bowl. Add the chicken, panko, 2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce, the ginger, 3 tsp. soy sauce, and 1 tsp. sambal oelek and mix until combined. Shape the chicken mixture into 4 patties and place on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, thinly slice the remaining 1/2 onion. Toss with the mushrooms, sesame oil, lime juice, and the remaining 1 tsp. soy sauce in a bowl. Mix the remaining 2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce and 2 tsp. sambal oelek with 1 Tbsp. water in another bowl.

3. Warm the burger buns in the oven (or use pretzel rolls warm!). Serve the burgers on the buns with a drizzle of the hoisin-sambal sauce and some of the mushroom mixture.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Black Bean Dip

If you happened to be looking for a quick, easy dip to snack on this weekend, look no further. I tried Ellie Krieger's Black Bean Dip out on Superbowl weekend, and it was a big winner. If you've been reading my blog somewhat regularly, you may know that I've been gradually overcoming my aversion to beans. I am slowly coming out of my hatred of them, I'm happy to say. I do like hummus; that was a good baby step. I have been known to puree a can of rinsed, drained beans and use it as a thickener in soup and chili. I love that trick; it's like hidden healthiness in your broth! But the biggest surprise lately has been that I have embraced black beans. I never thought it would happen, but here I am! I'm throwing them into my egg sandwich wraps, my salads, and thoroughly enjoying them in the process. Go figure!

Given this recent affinity for black beans, I knew that it was finally time for me to test out Black Bean Dip. Before, I never would have even tried it just based on looks alone. I mean, let's be honest just for a second: it's not the prettiest dip. However, once you get past that blah, brownish exterior, you're in for a real treat.

It's got a nice kick from a fresh jalapeno pepper, some zip from fresh lime juice, and a nice little extra something from onion, garlic, and cilantro leaves. Ellie originally used it as a base for a Mexican pizza, but we just dipped raw veggies and crackers and that kind of stuff into it and ate it that way. It's really delicious. In fact, I got kinda upset two days later when I went into the fridge to have some, only to learn that my husband had already polished it off the night before! Oh, well. That's okay. I see lots more black bean dip in our future...

Black Bean Dip
adapted from Ellie Krieger, via
makes about 1 cup

2 tsp. olive oil
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. minced jalapeno pepper (I used 1 whole pepper, seeded and ribs removed)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 Tbsp. water (or more if you need to loosen up the dip some)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. coarsely chopped scallion (green tops only)

1. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and saute until they soften, about 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and jalapeno and cook for 1 minute more.

2. Put the beans into a food processor. Add the onion mixture and the rest of the ingredients (not including scallions), and puree until smooth. Garnish with scallion tops and serve.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

CEIMB: (Mexican) Mocha Cake with Chocolate Glaze

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly was a little something different; it was a chocolate cake! We've been making a lot of main dishes for the group lately, which I love, but it was great to be able to switch things up a bit this time. Chaya, of Chaya's Comfy Cook Blog, chose for us to make Ellie's Mocha Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

This was my third time making this cake, and each time I've done something differently. I love that this recipe is so versatile; I can imagine so many variations on the base chocolate cake here. Last time I made it, I used dark cocoa powder and it turned out super, duper chocolatey and delicious. This time, I wanted to spice it up...literally! I thought it would be fun to make this into a spicy mocha cake, and add a few Mexican-tinged flavors to the batter. I cut the recipe in half (because the other times I've made this, I have found that it makes an awful lot of cake!). Then, I added 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon, and 1/8 teaspoon each of cayenne pepper and ground black pepper to the batter. I felt like a bit of a mad scientist, playing around with this cake! It was a fun experiment.

I used my trusty old brownie pan, again, and it worked out well for the most part. I noticed that not all the slices of cake baked up evenly, so I had some shorter pieces and some larger ones. I reduced the cooking time by about 5-7 minutes, and it was just enough.

I also wanted to do something else for the frosting this time. I opted to make a very simple chocolate glaze to pour over the tops of the slices. I used 1 cup plus 3 Tbsp. confectioners' sugar, 3 Tbsp. milk, 1/2 tsp. vanilla, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon, and 3 Tbsp. cocoa powder to form my glaze (pictured above). The glaze was mostly hardened and set, and then I transferred the cake pieces to the fridge. When I poked around to try a slice later on, I noticed that the glaze was softer than it had been. I guess the fridge softens it back up. It didn't matter, though: it was still totally scrumptious! I highly recommend this variation if you're ever looking for a uniquely flavored, slightly good-for-you chocolate cake to take somewhere!

Thanks to Chaya for allowing me to revisit an old favorite in a new way! For the full recipe as written by Ellie, check out the whole thing on Food Network's website, here. And to see what the other CEIMB-istas did with this one, be sure to head on over to the blogroll, here.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca

Sometimes, I overthink dinner. Of course, that may be obvious from just looking at my blog! Usually I like things to be high flavor, or high concept, or just exotic enough to be different. And that can be great, most of the time. There are other times, though, when you just need an easy, back-pocket chicken dinner that can be thrown together quickly and still tastes "wow." This is that type of chicken dinner.

I found this Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca staring at me from the cover of the most recent issue of Cooking Light. It looked so elegant, so beautiful and delicious, that I knew I was going to be trying it out. I've only ever had chicken saltimbocca in restaurants, and I guess I never knew that it was such a deceptive recipe to make. By that, I mean it tastes like something that took a whole lot of work, when in reality it couldn't have been simpler to assemble. All you have to do is secure a few sage leaves on each piece of chicken with a couple strips of salty prosciutto, saute the chicken until cooked through, and then make a quick pan sauce of lemon juice and chicken broth, thickened with a sprinkle of cornstarch. The dish is floral, tart, salty, and just all-around flavorful. All that, and it came from a healthy cooking magazine!

Lemony Chicken Saltimbocca
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 4 chicken cutlets

4 (4-ounce) chicken cutlets (or I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts)
1/8 tsp. salt
12 fresh sage leaves
2 ounces very thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into 8 thin strips
4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. cornstarch
Lemon wedges (optional)

1. Sprinkle the chicken evenly with salt. Place 3 sage leaves on each cutlet; wrap 2 prosciutto slices around each cutlet, securing sage leaves in place.

2. Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 Tbsp. oil to pan, and swirl to coat. Add chicken to pan; cook for 2 minutes on each side or until done. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.

3. Combine broth, lemon juice, and cornstarch in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Add cornstarch mixture and the remaining 1 tsp. olive oil to pan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for 1 minute or until slightly thickened, stirring constantly with a whisk. Spoon sauce over chicken. Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Chocolate and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast

Happy Valentine's Day! In honor of the occasion, I decided to make my Meatless Monday a breakfast-themed one, and do a super-decadent french toast sandwich for you. I got this one from Ellie Krieger, so it only seems super-decadent! In fact, it is actually a kinda nutritious breakfast! The thing that makes it indulgent is the inclusion of chocolate, but of course a bit of chocolate in the morning never hurt anybody as long as there was some fresh fruit and whole grains accompanying it!

This is a stuffed french toast recipe. Only three ingredients are required for the inside of the sandwich: ricotta cheese, fresh strawberries, and chocolate chips. You assemble your sandwiches, dip them in an egg/milk mixture seasoned with vanilla and ground cinnamon, and fry them up on your griddle as you would with traditional french toast. I did make some swaps for this; I used a combination of 2% milk and water as opposed to skim milk, and I substituted one egg white for a whole egg. I also added in the cinnamon; we're big fans!

These french toast sandwiches were surefire hits over the weekend! It truly felt like we were eating dessert for breakfast, which was just fine with me on a special occasion. I paired the sandwiches with some breakfast sausage (turkey for the boys, meatless links for me!) and it really made a nice meal that kept us good and full all morning long. I couldn't believe this recipe came from a healthy cookbook, but that's Ellie for you. She's always surprising me with how good healthy food can taste! Anyway, I think this would make a fantastic Valentine's Day treat, whether for breakfast, lunch, or a really yummy, sweet dinner. I hope you have a great day!

Chocolate and Strawberry Stuffed French Toast
adapted from Ellie Krieger
makes 4 sandwiches

3/4 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup water
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
8 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread (Ellie removed her crusts; I did not)
4 oz. fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
2 Tbsp. bittersweet chocolate chips
Cooking spray
2 tsp. confectioners' sugar

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, water, eggs, egg white, vanilla, and cinnamon. Set aside.

2. Spread 1 Tbsp. of the ricotta cheese on 4 of the bread slices. Top each with about 6 slices of strawberry and 1/2 Tbsp. of the chocolate chips. Cover each with another piece of bread to form sandwiches.

3. Spray a large nonstick skillet or griddle with cooking spray and preheat over medium heat. Carefully dip each of the sandwiches into the egg mixture (I learned the hard way that you should not dip the whole slice of bread into the egg; that makes the sandwich soggy on the inside. Rather, you want to dip the lower half of a bread slice, carefully flip the sandwich, and then dip the lower half of the other bread slice). Place each sandwich on the skillet or griddle and cook until the outside is golden brown. The center should be warm and the chocolate should be melted. Ellie says 3-4 minutes per side should do it, but mine were on the griddle more like 6-7 minutes per side.

4. Transfer sandwiches to serving dishes. Top with extra strawberries, if desired, and sprinkle with confectioners' sugar.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Baked Sunday Mornings: Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

This weekend's Baked Sunday Mornings assignment was the Red Velvet Whoopie Pies in Baked Explorations. This selection couldn't have come at a better time; I always associate red velvet with Valentine's Day, and I haven't made a whoopie pie in a while. I go through withdrawal, people! So it was definitely time for me to whip up a batch. I adore red velvet, and I've made the Baked version of red velvet cake (well, cupcakes!) before, so I was eager to experience their spin on the red velvet whoopie.

Last Valentine's Day, I made a red velvet whoopie that I saw in Food Network Magazine, and they were pretty divine. Of course, back then I was still a pretty lazy blogger and never got around to posting about those. It's funny how things can change in a year, huh? Anyway, I wondered how these would compare to the FN Magazine version, since I really didn't think I could improve upon those when I made them. But being the huge fan of the Baked boys that I am, I was pretty sure they would come through for me.

Of course, I was not disappointed! These red velvet whoopies are delicate, yet sturdy. Just slightly crisp on the outside, but perfectly tender on the inside. The filling is just perfect, even when you use lower-fat cream cheese! It tasted every bit as decadent as the full-fat version. The pairing of the outer cookies and the inner filling is just heaven. I do have to apologize for not using the recommended walnuts to roll the sides of the whoopies in. I just thought they would be great without nuts, and didn't bother with them. Maybe next time, though. As is, these pies were wonderfully rich and sweet, and to me they were the most wonderful treat I could think of to indulge in for Valentine's Day. My husband will be taking the rest in to work tomorrow; we just have to share the love!

So, another Baked recipe, another rousing success! To see what the other Baked Sunday Morning cooks thought of these little gems, simply check out the blog's main site, here.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

CEIMB: Sesame Shrimp Fried Rice with Cabbage

This week's Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe was chosen by Sarah of Sarah's Kitchen Adventures. It was the Sesame Shrimp Fried Rice with Cabbage from Ellie's So Easy cookbook. I was instantly excited when I learned that this would be made by the group. I have a very special place in my heart for shrimp fried rice, you see. I was first introduced to Chinese take-out by ordering myself a pint of shrimp fried rice every time the rest of the family wanted Chinese food. While my parents were ordering way more exotic delicacies, I was perfectly content with my shrimp fried rice. I mean, I loved the stuff. I didn't even bother branching out and trying other Chinese dishes until I was in college! I'm glad I finally did, because of course I have discovered many, many other loves along the way. But you never forget your first, and shrimp fried rice was mine! (Am I getting carried away because of Valentine's Day? Who knows?)

I knew I could count on Ellie to make shrimp fried rice healthier, and still have it be just as delicious as I remember. Her variation is very simple: a generous heap of green cabbage is added to the rice, along with ginger, scallions, sesame oil/sesame seeds, a dash of soy sauce (my husband was shocked at how just 3 Tablespoons of soy went such a long way!), and last but not least, the shrimp. I decided to do part green cabbage and part bok choy, just because we love bok choy around here. I also used half the amount of oil to stir-fry the shrimp. Other than that, I was very faithful to Ellie's way of doing this.

This was one of the best homemade fried rice dishes we've ever had! The tip about making sure your rice is very cold is key here; it really makes the rice perfect; non-clumpy and all the grains are soft but not gummy. I think that has been my problem with fried rice I've made in the past. The rice was never quite right, and never reminded me of takeout. This one did, though. If you fed this to company, I'd bet you they'd never know it didn't come out of a Chinese food carton! I loved this so much that I think I'm going to be making it my stand-by fried rice from here on out! Thanks again, Ellie.

And of course, huge thanks to Sarah for this amazing find! If you'd like this wonderful recipe, click on over to the Food Network website, here. And be sure to check out the CEIMB blogroll, here.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cocoa-Coconut Granola

I made this granola about a month ago, and for some reason I never got around to posting about it until now. It's not because I forgot all about the granola; in fact, I eat a bit of it every other day for breakfast. I stir it into a bowl of cereal, and it really gives the cereal some heft. Whole grains, sweet coconut, and a nutty crunch combine to provide energy to your morning and a great balance to your daily first meal. Add a serving of fruit and a cup of coffee to the cereal/granola combo, and you've got it made!

I love this twist on the traditional granola because it adds a kiss of cocoa flavor, warm spices (in the form of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom), and sticky-sweet agave nectar to the more tired formula. It creates a unique granola, one that I've become hooked on and have looked forward to every single time I've had it. And, this being my first time making granola, I've been very pleasantly surprised with 1) the sheer simplicity of making this myself, and 2) how well it keeps! I've had this stuff in an airtight container for the past month, and it's still perfect! It doesn't require refrigeration; all the ingredients, for the most part, are pantry staples. I couldn't have been happier to discover yet another grocery-store purchase item that I can now conveniently make in my own kitchen. I defy you to find a box in the cereal aisle of granola that tastes as good as this!

Cocoa-Coconut Granola
adapted from Everybody Likes Sandwiches
makes 3.5-4 cups granola (I cut the original recipe in half)

2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
2 1/4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, shelled and roasted
1/2 cup roughly chopped almonds
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
Large pinch each ground nutmeg and cardamom
6 Tbsp. brown sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. agave nectar
2 Tbsp. honey
6 Tbsp. applesauce
1 Tbsp. olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients (from cocoa powder through brown sugar).

2. In a small saucepan, combine the agave nectar, honey, applesauce, and olive oil. Warm the ingredients just until the mixture is extra runny; pour over dry ingredients. Mix until everything is coated in the wet ingredients.

3. Pour the mixture into a large glass baking dish (or several cookie sheets that have sides) and spread evenly in a single layer. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour, removing from the oven every 15 minutes to stir the mixture. Once the mixture has almost completely dried out, remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Mine has kept for about 4 weeks now, and it's still just as great now as it was the day I made it!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Meatless Mondays: Barley-Stuffed Peppers

Now that I've made stuffed peppers more than once, I am happy to tell you that they are now a reliably delicious meal for my family and me. The head spins at the possibilities of flavor combinations, different proteins you can use, etc. However, sometimes you can truly surprise yourself and discover that you like something much more than you thought you did. This meal is a great example of this for me.

I have really come around on my aversion to mushrooms. In fact, one could even say I now embrace them, and look forward to ways I can use them! It's a huge step for me. I feel like this whole new world has been opened up to me, and it's exciting. I love it when this kind of stuff happens!

These Barley-Stuffed Peppers are a shockingly satisfying vegetarian main dish. Loaded with tender barley, mushrooms, and carrots, as well as some bread crumb, egg, and cheese to bind the filling together, they are flavorful and hearty. The peppers were perfectly cooked; succulent and juicy, while the stuffing was slightly creamy from the cheese and chewy from the grains. Oh, how we loved these peppers!

Barley-Stuffed Peppers
adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication
makes 6 stuffed peppers

2 cups water
2/3 cups pearled barley
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms
1/2 of a vegetable bouillon cube
3 large red sweet peppers, halved and hollowed out (seeds removed, stems intact)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
3/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided (3 oz.)
1/2 cup shredded carrot (or chopped in small pieces)
1/3 cup soft bread crumbs (I used two slices of whole wheat bread, crusts removed)
1 Tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
1 Tbsp. fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 tsp. garlic salt
Several dashes bottled hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco or Cholula

1. Place 2 cups water, 2/3 cup barley, and the 1/2 bouillon cube in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil, lower heat and cover, and simmer for about an hour or so, until the water is absorbed and the barley is cooked and tender. Add the sliced mushrooms after an hour, remove from heat, and recover for about 15 minutes while the mushrooms soften.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the egg, tomato paste, 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese, carrots, bread crumbs, sage, parsley, salt, and hot pepper sauce. Stir in cooked barley mixture. Place pepper halves, cut sides up, in an ungreased 2-quart baking dish. Spoon barley mixture into peppers.

3. Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until filling is heated through. Sprinkle the peppers with the remaining 1/4 cup cheese. Bake, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes, or until the cheese is melted. Note: these can be made ahead of time! I made mine two days prior by filling the peppers and then refrigerating them. When I was ready to bake them, I put them in the oven for 50 minutes, then put the cheese on and baked for another 5-10 minutes. Worked like a charm!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

CEIMB: Four Cheese Baked Penne (Or Three Cheese Baked Rigatoni!)

This week's much-anticipated Craving Ellie in My Belly recipe was Four Cheese Baked Penne, chosen by Lindsey of 71 Cookbooks. I have been waiting for this one. We are big baked pasta eaters here at my house. It's basically my go-to meal, one of the first things I learned how to cook, and one of my childhood comfort foods. I figured I was going to be in for a big treat.

Of course, it seems I never follow one of Ellie's recipes exactly, and this one was no different. Instead of using all four of the cheeses Ellie did, I omitted the cottage cheese and made up the difference by using extra ricotta. I had rigatoni on hand, not penne, so that was the pasta I used. Otherwise, I did follow the recipe just as written. I also decided to make the salad that accompanies the pasta in her cookbook, but I did not use romaine hearts as she indicates. Instead, I made a spinach salad with all the other ingredients in her recipe.

I have to be honest. I wasn't totally blown away by this meal. I did really enjoy it, but the pasta dish definitely needed a little something extra. I think for me, I like the baked pasta to be saucier, as in tomato sauce. When I usually make it, it has about twice the tomato sauce and I normally use enough crushed red pepper flakes to give it a bit of a kick. However, I wanted to follow Ellie's method because 1) I'm always up for trying something her way, because her way is probably healthier, and 2) if I had followed my instincts and added more sauce, it would have ended up being my version of baked pasta and not Ellie's anymore! Oh well. I'm glad I know for sure now that I like it the tried and true way.

As for the spinach salad, it was tasty. I felt like the dressing, which was simply lemon juice, oil, salt, pepper, and oregano, was a bit too acidic. I made the same salad the next evening with the pasta leftovers, except with white balsamic vinegar in place of the lemon juice. What a difference that made! We loved the balsamic version, probably because it was slightly sweeter and far less tart. I really did love how the salty kalamata olives offset the sweet red onions so nicely. It was a pleasant surprise.

Thanks to Lindsey for choosing this dish! If you'd like the full recipe, it's on Food Network's site, here. The blogroll for the CEIMB can be found here.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Smoky Potato Pancakes

One of the (many) things I love about reading cooking magazines is how broad the range of food always is. In other words, I sometimes feel like I live a sheltered life because I never had a potato pancake, or latke, until I made them myself. There are plenty of other examples of foods I'd never been exposed to until recently, but I'll spare you the list right now. Suffice it to say, I'm really enjoying my new, broader food horizons and discovering worlds I simply never knew!

When looking through my latest issue of Cooking Light Magazine, I found an easy recipe for Smoky Potato Pancakes, and I just could not resist giving them a try. I love potatoes, bacon, and cheese (all three of which are included in this recipe), so I couldn't wait to try them all together in this new form. As long as you have a food processor, or some other device that can shred potatoes quick as a flash, this recipe is such a breeze.

You cook up a bit of bacon, then save it for a topping at the end. You saute onions in the bacon drippings, then add a bit of garlic and scallion. The cooked onion mixture goes into a bowl with a bunch of shredded potato, some cheese, salt, and pepper, along with some eggs to bind the whole mix together. Shape the concoction into patty shapes, and arrange them on a baking sheet. If you're concerned that they won't be good because they aren't being deep fried, you shouldn't be. These turn out crispy, with a bit of tenderness inside. I might have been able to cook mine even longer; they weren't as dark as the picture in the magazine. Still, they were completely scrumptious and surprisingly satisfying as an entree. I served them up with a spinach salad (like the magazine suggests) and we had a fantastic meal. If you've never had a potato pancake, either, I would definitely recommend these as a first foray into the world of latke making!

Smoky Potato Pancakes
adapted from Cooking Light
makes 8 potato pancakes

2 center-cut hickory smoked bacon slices
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup thinly sliced scallion (the original recipe called for leeks)
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds shredded, peeled baking potato (about 2 large)
1/3 cup (1 1/2 oz.) shredded pepper jack cheese (the original called for sharp cheddar)
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
Cooking spray
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan using a slotted spoon, and crumble. Add onion to drippings in pan, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add scallion and garlic; cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently.

2. Combine onion mixture with the grated potato (note: make sure you wring as much of the moisture as you can from the potatoes before adding them!), pepper jack cheese, 3/4 tsp. salt, black pepper, and 2 large eggs in a medium bowl. Mix well. Divide the potato mixture into 8 equal portions, and shape each portion into a 1/2-inch thick patty.

3. Place patties on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray (I used Reynolds' nonstick aluminum foil). Coat patties lightly with cooking spray. Bake at 425 for 25 minutes or until golden and set.

4. Top the potato pancakes with the reserved, crumbled bacon and sour cream (if using). One serving size is 2 pancakes, 1 Tbsp. sour cream, and 1/2 bacon slice.