Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Persian Style Basmati Rice Pilaf

This pilaf reminds me of my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant in Portland.  I like to make it when I'm missing the city.  It is sooo good.  Warm and savory with a hint of sweetness from the raisins.You'll definitely be asked for the recipe.  If you don't have basmati rice, you can use another long grained fragrant rice.  Don't use plain rice if you can help it- it just isn't the same.  Fragrant rice has a better flavor and holds up nicely in this dish.  This is great served with grilled meat or kebabs on the side. 

Nutritional Bonus:  Turmeric, which gives this dish a wonderful flavor and rich yellow color is an antioxidant and has anti-inflammatory properties.  Countries that consume turmeric on a regular basis have lower rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, so eat up!

4 Tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 c. slivered almonds
1 1/2 c. uncooked basmati rice
1/2-3/4 c. raisins
1 tsp. turmeric (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
3 c. low sodium chicken broth (if you use regular broth, omit the salt!)

Melt the butter in a large skillet (make sure you have a lit to fit it!) over medium heat.  Add onions and almonds, sauteing until the almonds are golden.  Add in the garlic the last few minutes.

Stir in the rice, raisins, turmeric, cinnamon, salt and broth.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat.  Simmer 20-25 mins. until rice is tender- no peeking!  Season as you like with salt and pepper.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Blueberry Lemon Shortbread

I had a major urge to bake something yesterday purely just to have something to do, but I had no desire to get out of my jammies and head to the store, so I dug through my cook books and found a recipe for raspberry lemon bars that I adapted using what I had on hand.  It made a large pan so I wrapped up half of them and brought them by the high school where my husband teaches for his coworkers to snack on during the day.  It makes me feel so good to share some homemade goodness when people least expect it...and it keeps me from eating all of it!  Of course, Little Brother had to sample them first to make sure they were good :)

1 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. powdered sugar
2 c. flour
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. lemon zest
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. blueberries (I used frozen that I thawed ahead of time)
powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350.  For the shortbread crust, beat butter with an electric mixer for about 30 seconds.  Add the 3/4 c. powdered sugar and beat until combined.  Add the 2 cups flour and beat until well mixed.  Press mixture into the bottom of a greased 9x13 pan.  Bake for 20 min. until golden.

Meanwhile make the filling:  Combine eggs, granulated sugar, lemon juice, zest, 1/4 c. flour and baking powder in large mixing bowl.  Beat for 2 min. with electric mixer till combined.  When crust comes out of oven, sprinkle berries over the top then carefully pour the filling over that.  Arrange berries evenly with a spoon if they moved around on you.

Put back into the oven and bake another 30-35 mins. until light brown and filling has set.  Cut into bars.  Just before serving dust with powdered sugar. 

These don't keep long- keep them covered in the fridge for up to 2 days.  Or you can cut and freeze them up to 1 month.  Thaw in the refridgerator.  I don't think you'll have to worry about them going long.  I'd be surprised if they lasted 2 days anywhere!

Tacos in Pasta Shells

I have definitely been on a Mexican food kick.  Maybe because the sun has finally come out??  I made these for my husband's birthday dinner last week and they were a huge hit with young and old.  Little Brother ate 2 shells to himself!  Big sister, picky gal that she is, had 2 EMPTY shells and a pile of refried beans and rice.  Oh well.  I know she'll appreciate my cooking someday.  :)

1 1/4 pounds lean ground beef
4 oz. cream cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
18 jumbo pasta shells
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup taco sauce
2 cups shredded mexican cheese blend, or half and half cheddar and jack cheese
1 1/2 cups crushed tortilla chips
sour cream and salsa for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large skillet, brown beef over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Add cream cheese, salt and chili powder; mix and simmer for 5 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain. Set shells out on a cutting board so they don't touch and stick together.

Fill shells with beef mixture and arrange in a 9x13 inch baking dish; pour taco sauce over shells. Cover with foil and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes.  Remove dish from oven and top with  cheese and tortilla chips; return dish to oven to cook for 15 minutes more.               

Serve with a salad or rice and beans. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Amaranth Porridge- An Oatmeal Alternative

If you're like me you love shopping in the bulk bins at the grocery store. I love the rows upon rows of real, whole foods just waiting for you to scoop them up and take them home with you.  Last time I was at the market I saw that Amaranth was on sale.  It's a grain I've been hearing quite a bit about these days as it is high in protien and fiber, and also gluten free.  It is the smallest of the whole grains, each piece being about half the size of a grain of couscous. 


I wasn't sure what I was going to make with the amaranth, but I knew I'd find something on Pinterest.  I came across this recipe from Three Many Cooks for a hot breakfast cereal made of Amaranth and had to give it a try.  The consistency is similar to Cream of Wheat or grits.  She topped hers with pecans, raisins and agave.  I dressed mine with maple syrup, hemp seeds and walnuts.  Use what you've got! This recipe serves 4.

1 c. amaranth
2 1/2 c. water
1/2-1 c. milk or soy milk

Bring amaranth and water to a boil in a saucepan. Once boiling, reduce heat and partially cover. Stirring occasionally, simmer for 25-30 minutes or until all water is absorbed. Add soy milk, a little at a time, until desired consistency. Top with your favorite oatmeal toppings.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Addictive Sweet Potato Burritos

I love sweet potatoes and so do my kids.  They like them because they are sweet and I like them because of all the great nutrition packed inside.  Sweet potatoes are rich in B vitamins and vitamins C and A- both powerful antioxidants.  They are also high in potassium, copper and iron.  Here's a delicious twist on them- it sounds a bit weird, but I promise you can't eat just one!  If you don't feel like baking them or are just short on time, you can just put the filling in warmed tortillas and eat. We like to throw some spinach leaves in there sometimes as well.  Baking them is delicious, too. It makes the outside a bit crunchy- great for those chimichanga lovers out there! 

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 can refried beans, or your choice of kidney, pinto or black beans
3 Tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
4 tsp. yellow mustard
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
3 Tbsp. soy sauce
4 c. mashed sweet potatoes
12 burrito sized flour tortillas (warm them up to make them easier to fold)
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
optional toppings: sour cream, salsa, olives, green onions, etc. for serving

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat oil in a medium skillet and saute onion and garlic until soft.  Stir in beans and mash them up a bit if you're using whole beans.  Stir in chili powder, cumin, mustard, cayenne and soy sauce.

Divide bean mixture and mashed sweet potatoes evenly between the tortillas.  Top with cheese, then fold tortillas up burrito-style.  Place burritos on a baking sheet.  Bake for 12 min. Top with desired toppings

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Pineapple Pecan Upside Down Cake

Yesterday was my husband's birthday and every year he requests this cake.  It is his mom's recipe that he grew up eating and it is sooo delicious!  You can leave out the nuts if you like, but I think they make this cake.  I add maraschino cherries to spruce it up a bit, but you could always just use more nuts.

1/2 c. butter
1 c. brown sugar
1 large can pineaple slices, reserve the juice
1 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/8 tsp. salt
3 eggs, separated
1 c. white sugar
5 Tbsp. pineapple juice
pecans and maraschino cherries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Put the butter in the bottom of a deep cast iron skillet or frying pan (cast iron seems to make the best caramely goodness on the top of the cake) and put in the oven while it preheats to melt the butter.  When it is completely melted, sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top.  Then arrange the pineapple slices, filling in spaces with nuts and the cirles in the rings with cherries. 

Mix flour, salt and baking powder together in a small bowl and set aside. 

In a large bowl beat the egg yolks and white sugar together until creamy.  Then add pineapple juice.  Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well.  Then beat the egg whites in another bowl until stiff peaks form.  Gently fold the whites into the batter.  Pour batter over the pineapple rings.  Bake for 30-35 min. until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Run a knife around the edge of the cake and quickly invert onto a serving platter.  It's easiest to put the platter upside down on the pan and then hold them together as you flip the whole set up over.  Let it cool before serving.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Northwest Salmon Chowder

It has been sooooo grey, cold and windy here!  The thing I miss most about the winter since we moved to Eastern Oregon from Portland is the green.  No matter the time of year it is lush and beautiful, even if it's constantly drizzling. 

Can't you just SMELL the green!

Here in the Eastern half of the state it is grey, the trees have no leaves, the sky is overcast.  It rains, but the rain only brings things to life in the spring.  For now we wait.  It's hard not to get down this time of year without even a dusting of snow to lift my spirits.  So, in the name of cold dreary winters in the Northwest, I bring you comfort food- Northwest Salmon Chowder. 

Now since I am on a single-income budget, fish is not something I tend to buy unless it comes in a can.  I  would suggest buying the little cans of salmon that look like tuna cans.  NOT the large ones, unless of course you want to spend half an hour picking out bits of bone, skin and gelatinous fat.  I made that mistake once and will never do it again!  The salmon in the tuna-sized containers is nice and clean, ready to throw into your soup pot.  If you want to use fresh salmon, by all means, do!  Just cut it into bite-sized pieces and add to the soup, being careful not to stir too hard and break up the pieces.
I like this with a nice crusty french bread from the bakery and oyster crackers. 

1/2 c. each chopped celery, onion and green pepper
1 garlic clove
3 Tbsp. butter
14 oz. chicken broth
1 c. peeled and diced potatoes, raw
1 c. shredded carrots
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4-3/4 tsp. dill weed
1 can creamed corn (14.75 oz.)
2 c. half-and-half
15 oz. canned salmon, or fresh cut into cubes

In a large pot saute the vegetables and garlic in butter until tender.  Don't overcook the garlic or it will become bitter.  Add the broth, potatoes, carrots and seasonings.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 40 min. until potatoes are tender.  Stir in the corn, half-and-half and salmon.  Simmer gently for 15 min. until heated through.  If using fresh fish, test for doneness before serving.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salsa

As February drags on I find myself craving anything that reminds me of summer.  Here's a quick salsa to whip up when you need a bit of summeriness.  It's great with chips, served as a side dish or even on top of chicken breasts or fish.  Play around with the proportions of ingredients to find a mix that's pleasing to you.  I love avocado, so I usually go a bit heavy on it. :)  Cilantro seems to be one of those herbs that people either love or hate, so if you like it, go for it! If you want to spice it up a bit, throw in some chopped jalapeno peppers.

10 oz. frozen corn, thawed
1 14.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1-2 avocados, chopped
1/2 c. sugar more or less
1/2 c. rice wine vinegar
salt to taste
chopped cilantro, jalapeno optional to taste

Mix together all of the veggies and beans in a large bowl.  Mix in the sugar.  Stir in the rice wine vinegar, mixing to coat.  Season with salt as needed.  This tastes best if you let the flavors meld in the fridge for an hour or so, give it a quick stir and dive in!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Balsamic Apricot Chicken

It's getting to be about that time to hit the grocery store, so I had to get a bit creative with what I had in my pantry tonight.  I was craving something sweet and tangy.  Something saucy.  And then I rememberd I had this recipe from that I'd been wanting to try, and I happened to have all the ingredients!  Woot!  I served it with a roasted garlic quinoa mix I got in the rice section of my grocery store, and steamed broccoli.  It was a hit!

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. chicken breats cut into bite-sized pieces
S&P to taste
1 lg. onion, chopped
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
20 dried apricots
1 c. chicken stock
1 c. apricot preserves
1 tsp. thyme

Heat oil in a large skillet with a lid over medium-high.  Season the chicken with S&P and cook in oil until golden brown, but still pink in the center (about 5 mins).  Stir in the onion and cook about 3 more mins.  Pour in the vinegar, bring to a simmer and allow it to reduce for a few mins.

Cut half of the apricots in half, and leave the rest whole.  Put them all into the skillet and pour the chicken stock over everything.  Bring to a simmer, then add the preserves and thyme.  Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the apricots are softened, about 10-15 mins. 

This would be yummy served over rice, quinoa like we did, or maybe even mashed potatoes!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Double Chocolate Brownies

Brownies are by far my favorite baked good.  Is there really anything better than the ooey-gooey goodness of a fresh brownie?  I think not. 

1 c. melted butter
3 c. white sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. flour
1 c. cocoa
1 tsp. salt
1 c. chocolate chips, whatever kind you like

Grease a 9x13 pan and preheat your oven to 350.   Mix the butter, sugar and vanilla together well.  Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Sift the flour, cocoa and salt together.  Then gradually add it to the wet ingredients.  Once that is mixed in well you can add the chocolate chips.  Spread in your prepared pan and bake 35-40 mins.  Cool completely in the pan before cutting or they will fall apart on you.  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Never Ending Casserole Combos

We've got a week till payday and I'm trying to NOT buy groceries till then.  Except for milk, of course.  We always run out of milk!  So, I'm having to get pretty creative in the kitchen.  I like these times because I find things in my pantry that I forgot I had, and sometimes I come up with things that end up becoming family favorites.  Then there are nights like tonight where I just don't feel creative, and that's when this MYO casserole recipe comes in handy.   That's when this MYO Casserole recipe comes in handy.

Anyway, Using the ratios below you can make a delicious balanced meal out of just about anything in your pantry and fridge.  My casserole has tuna, peas, noodles, condensed soup and almonds, topped with cheese.  I used garlic and Italian seasonings for my flavorings.  Play around with flavor and ingredient combos and you'll be sure to end up with a delicious, filling dinner.  Let me know what you come up with, I'd love to hear how it turns out!  What are your strategies for stretching your pantry store before payday comes?

You will need:

1 c. of your main ingredient (can be any meat or fish, tofu, veggies)
1 c. of a second ingredient (more of the main ingredient, or a veggie, hardboiled eggs, etc.)
1-2 c. of a starcy ingredient (crushed chips, cubed bread, noodles, rice, cooked potatoes)
1 1/2 c. binder (cream sauce, condensed cream soup, sour cream, mayo)
1/4 c. of a goodie mix-in (pimiento, olives, water chestnuts, nuts, etc.)

Season as you like with anything from lemon juice, sherry, soy sauce, worchestershire, garlic, chopped onions and peppers, curry powder, grated cheese.  Think about what sort of a flavor feel you want your casserole to have (southwest, Indian, French, etc.) and start there.

Mix all of your ingredients thoroughly.  If it seems dry you can add another 1/4-1/2 c. of cream, milk or stock.  Place mixture in a buttered casserole dish.  You can then top it with crushed crackers, breadcrumbs, chips or grated cheese.  Bake 30-45 min. @ 350 till hot and bubbly.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Cold Bug Destroyer Smoothie

When I was in college there was a Jamba Juice near my work and whenever I got a cold, or just felt run down with all of the classes, work, cramming, midnight study sessions (and maybe a bit of partying thrown in there, too. :) ) I would get a berry smoothe with antioxidant boost and I always felt better within a day or so.  There isn't a Jamba Juice where I live now, so I've had to figure out my own antioxidant blend.  This smoothie also boasts a bit of silken tofu for protien (I promise you won't even know it's there!) to keep you fuller, longer.  I think that eating right is one of the best ways that we can keep our bodies working in top form. So if you find yourself curled up on the couch with a box of kleenex, give this smoothie a whirl and you should be back on your feet in no time! 

1 c. ice cubes
1/2 c. blueberries
1/2 c. blackberries (frozen fruit is fine and a lot cheaper this time of year!)
1/4 c. drained silken tofu
2 Tbs. acai or pomegranite juice
2 tsp. agave nectar or honey
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon or cardamom

Put everything in your blender in this order and blend on high until smooth.  If you're using frozen fruit you can reduce the ice to 3/4 cup.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jam Thumbprints

I had some left over currant jam from making the Sweet & Tangy Cocktail Weenies a few weeks ago.  Currant jam on its own isn't a big hit in this house so I decided to use it to make some jam thumbprint cookies I'd been craving ever since someone brought them to our holiday cookie exchange party.  You can really use any kind of jam that you like in this recipe.  I forgot to take a pic before they were all eaten up, so I borrowed this one from Sunset Magazine, but the recipe is mine.  :)  I also dusted mine with powdered sugar.  I think it makes them look so much prettier!

1 c. butter
1/2 c. powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. fruit preserves or jam

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer.  Add vanilla, then flour and salt, mixing till well combined.

Roll tablespoons of dough between your hands to form balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.  Use your thumb, a small spoon (I used the teaspoon in my measuring spoon set), or the round end ofa wooden spoon to create a depression in the center of each cookie.  Make sure not to poke all the way through the dough to the cookie sheet or your jam will all run out!

Fill each depression with jam.  Bake 15-20 min. until golden brown.  Immediately transfer to a cool flat  surface, NOT A COOLING RACK! When they are completely cooled, dust them lightly with powdered sugar. 

Yield 2 dozen.

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