Thursday, January 27, 2011

Greek Pasta with Meatballs

I have to admit, I was a bit skeptical about this dish.  Actually, I'm still a bit skeptical about it right now!  The thought of making and eating meatballs that don't have Italian flavor was just a bit weird to me.  Somehow, amazingly, this dish kind of came together.  I have to preface this by saying that I am sometimes weary of making recipes that I find in Cooking Light magazine.  I like Cooking Light because the recipes are developed with health and nutrition in mind, and I can appreciate that.  Also, I like to see the nutritional information for the recipes.  You can pretty much tell if something is going to be high or low calorie just by reading the ingredients list, but I always like to see the final breakdown of information, and Cooking Light always includes this for all of there recipes.  With that being said, there are some things I'm not a huge fan about.  The time that they say is required to make a recipe is always wrong.  Inevitably, a recipe that is listed as taking 30 minutes takes me an hour.  Also, the minute amount of oil the recipes call for (keeping health in mind) sometimes just isn't enough!  I tried to follow today's recipe as best as I could.  There were, however, some changes that I made.  First off, the recipe called for ground lamb, and I didn't see that at the grocery store so I went with lean ground beef (it very well might've been there, but, honestly, I was in a hurry and there was an old lady blocking the whole area, taking her sweet time so I just went with the beef).  I also used more oil than the recipe calls for because I was having a tough time with the meatballs sticking to the pan and breaking apart when I was trying to brown them.  The only way to correct that was to add more olive oil.  I'm sure it gave this dish great added flavor, too, although I won't be posting the nutritional info on this one since I made so many adjustments.
All in all, it wasn't a bad dish, but definitely different.  My husband did enjoy it, but I'm not sure if I'll be making this one again.  I'm still posting it because I said I would write about all my adventures in the kitchen, good and bad, and this one is not BAD, just different.  I think I might've liked it more if I did take the time to find and use ground lamb.  I think I just like good old-fashioned Italian meatballs in sauce over pasta.  Either way, this is a tasty, easy dish, and if you are in the mood for Greek flavors, this is definitely one you should try out.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Greek Pasta with Meatballs
makes 4 servings
1/3 cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/3 pound 90% lean ground beef
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2 large egg whites
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups jarred marinara sauce
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 cups hot cooked orzo

Preheat oven to 375F.
Combine first 8 ingredients in a medium bowl.  Add egg whites, stirring mixture until just combined.  Shape into 12 (1-inch) meatballs.
Heat oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add meatballs to pan and cook, turning to brown on all sides.  Spoon marinara sauce over meatballs and sprinkle with cheese.  Bake for 11 minutes or until meatballs are done.  Serve over orzo.
Adapted from Cooking Light, September 2010

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Red Rice with Sausage and Peppers

This is about as simple as it gets, folks.  Don't get me wrong -- this meal is nothing fancy-schmancy you'd want to be serving at your next dinner party.  But a weeknight meal for a busy family...definitely!  What I like the most about this dish is that pretty much all parts of it can be prepped ahead of time.  I cooked the rice up in the rice cooker and had it hanging out in the fridge.  I diced up the meat and had it in it's own little Tupper, as well as all the other vegetables in their own little Tupper.  That's it!  All that's left to do now is cook them all up in one pot.  I was a little weary of this recipe at first, thinking it would be a little bland because the only spices involved were salt and pepper, but sauteing the kielbasa in olive oil really flavors the entire dish.  The vegetables lend a juiciness and the rice just soaks up all those wonderful flavors.  Super simple recipe, and definitely one I will keep in my back pocket for those busy nights where it is just a struggle getting a meal on the table.  I bet this would be good with crumbled Italian sausage in place of the kielbasa, and pretty much any vegetable you have on hand would probably work, too.  This one got a thumbs-up from the hubby, too, which is always a plus.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Red Rice with Sausage and Peppers
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
14 ounces turkey kielbasa
1 onion, diced medium
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced medium
1 celery stalk, diced medium
1 can (14.5 ounces) diced fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cups brown rice

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat.  Add kielbasa and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy and browned, about 8 minutes.  Add onion, garlic, red pepper and celery, and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes.  Add tomatoes and cook until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add rice and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes.
Makes 4 servings
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Friday, January 21, 2011

Linzer Cookies

For some reason, lately, I have had a mega-craving for linzer cookies.  I remember when I was younger and we always used to have them in the house, either store-bought or homemade, and I loved eating them then as much as I do now.  These cookies are definitely different than the ones I remember eating as a child, but different doesn't mean bad.  It just means that you will probably see me post a few linzer cookie recipes on here until I find the ones that remind me of my childhood!

A few weeks ago, I had bought a set of nesting heart cookie cutters, so this seemed like the perfect occasion to use them, especially with Valentine's Day right around the corner (one of my favorite days of the year!).  After a few trays of the larger size cookies, I went ahead and made mostly smaller ones, mainly because they are easier to make.  This recipe is definitely a labor of love.  It involves a lot of cutting and shaping, more than just a regular sugar cookie, but the results are pretty delicious.

When I started out looking for a recipe, I wasn't really sure what I was looking for.  As I researched the Linzer Cookie more and more, I was able to kind of narrow down what it SHOULD be, and from there seek out a recipe.  The cookies I remember from childhood don't fit that description quite exactly, but that will have to be a different recipe for another day.  So, from what I could see, Linzer Cookies should be a butter cut-out cookie made with ground nuts in the batter, and usually some sort of spice, layered with raspberry or apricot jam.  After searching around on the internet for a bit, I settled on a recipe from the King Arthur Flour website.  I often find decent recipes here, so I thought it would be a good place to start.  With that being said, there are a few changes I would make next time I bake these.  First off, I don't think the cookies need to be rolled to 1/8 inch thick, this is just too thin.  I wanted them to bake up a little bit softer, but having rolled them so thin, they didn't really have a chance and got crisper than I would have liked.  Secondly, I feel that the cinnamon in the dough is a bit too much.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE cinnamon and usually love it anything (as evidenced by the title of this blog!), but 1 teaspoon seems just a bit much for this dough.  I didn't bother sprinkling the top cookie with powdered sugar before assembling, but that was just me being lazy.  All in all, I felt this was a good recipe, a nice starting point from which I will continue to build.  Stay tuned for more tweaks on Linzer Cookies in the near future.  Until then, enjoy the deliciousness!

Linzer Cookies
4 ounces pecans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
Raspberry jam, for filling

In a small food processor, pulse the pecans and salt until a fine meal/flour is formed.  Be careful not to over-process or else you will make pecan butter!  This should make about 1 cup of pecan meal.  If not, add more pecans.
In a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine butter and both sugars, beating until creamy.  Add in egg and vanilla.  In a large bowl, combine flour, pecans, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Add flour mixture to butter mixture and beat until just combined.
Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour (I left it overnight).
Preheat oven to 375F.  Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thick (as I said above, I feel this might be too thin, but I followed this part of the recipe, so I am posting it as I did it), and cut with desired cookie cutters.  Use small cutters to cut a design out of half of the cookies.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned on the edges.  Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.  After cookies have cooled, spread a small amount, about 1 teaspoonful, of jam over the solid cookies.  Place a cutout cookie on top of each filled cookie.  You can dust the cutout cookies with powdered sugar before doing this, as a decorative effect.
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

Note: After letting the prepared cookies sit in an airtight container overnight, I am much happier with them.  The jelly soaks in a little bit, so the cookie itself is no longer crisp, and that is actually the texture I was looking for.  Also, the cinnamon flavor mellows out a little bit, which I prefer.  All in all, I would probably still make the changes I suggested above, but I much prefer the recipe as-is the next day rather than the day it was prepared.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sweet-and-Sour Pork Stir-Fry

I would like to preface this by saying that my husband is a HUGE fan of pork.  And I'm not talking lean, white-meat pork tenderloin.  I mean good, old-fashioned fatty delicious pork shoulder.  Well, that's not exactly healthy or on my list of resolutions for the year, so we weren't going to be eating that tonight.  But just because we are trying to be healthy doesn't mean that we have to eat boring, bland food all the time.  This dish is super flavorful and still light! 
From the looks of it, it might seem like there's a lot of chopping to do as prep work, but this picture is deceiving.  I actually was able to prep the entire dish is about 15 minutes, all while the baby was napping, and the actual cooking only took about another 15 minutes!  I must confess that I had brown rice leftover from the casserole I had made the other night, so all I had to do was warm that up.  The flavors of this dish are pretty classic -- sweet pineapple, crisp-tender chunks of pepper, and a slightly thickened sauce of soy and pineapple juice coating lovely vegetables and caramelized chunks of pork.  Sounds complicated, but it's so simple -- definitely a great weeknight meal!  Leftovers, if you have any, reheat very nicely, too.  I bet this would be good with a little bit of chopped fresh ginger and/or garlic cooked up with the vegetables as well.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Sweet-and-Sour Pork Stir-Fry
8 ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, juice reserved
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb pork tenderloin, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
6 scallions, thinly sliced, white and green parts separated
1 red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch chunks
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 2-inch chunks
10 ounce package frozen broccoli florets, thawed
cooked brown rice for serving

In a small bowl, stir together pineapple juice, vinegar, soy sauce, cornstarch, and 1/4 cup water.  Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  cook pork, in two batches, until well browned (pork will cook more later).  Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
To skillet, add scallion whites and bell peppers, seasoning with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring, until peppers are crisp-tender, about 7 minutes.
Add pork, along with any accumulated juices, broccoli, and pineapple chunks.  Whisk sauce and add to skillet.  Bring to a simmer and cook, stirring, until broccoli is warmed through, about 4 minutes.  Stir in scallion greens and serve with rice.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
per serving (without rice): 294 calories, 11.1 grams fat, 26.6 grams protein, 21.1 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fiber

Monday, January 17, 2011

Roasted Beef, Mushroom, and Barley Soup

My intention for this blog, aside from being a source of wonderful, home-cooked meals and simple recipes, is that it chronicle my daily comings and goings in the kitchen.  Hits AND misses.  Good meals that get a big thumbs up from the husband as well as meals that he says "That one wasn't my favorite."  I try to be as honest as I can and really let you know how a dish worked out for my family, with the hopes that you can take it, work on it, and improve it for your own. 
With that being said, today's dish was a success!  (Okay, so my husband wasn't a huge fan of the Spicy Black Bean Soup from a few days ago, but in all honesty, I knew he wouldn't be because he doesn't love cilantro, so that's his problem).  This really is another simple meal that can easily be prepared any night of the week.  The prep work could even be done ahead of time, really, because all it involves is cubing up some sirloin and halving some mushrooms....that's it!  Beef, barley, and mushrooms is a pretty classic combination of flavors, and this soup is pretty basic in that it doesn't mess around with that union too much.  The slight twist on this recipe is that the meat and mushrooms get roasted in the oven before coming together with the rest of the ingredients in the soup...genius!  The caramelized, crusty flavor the beef takes on after being in the oven for 30 minutes really makes the difference in this dish.  By the way, your house will smell pretty amazing while this is roasting, too -- nothing beats onions and beef in the oven, perfuming the entire house!  The recipe says that it makes enough for 4 servings, but I'm going to say it's more like 3.  The only liquid in it is one carton of chicken stock, so it basically comes out to 1 cup per serving, and that's not accounting for all the liquid the barley is going to absorb.  On a quick side note -- the recipe does call for quick-cooking barley, which I was unable to find at my grocery store.  So, I just used regular barley and things turned out just fine. 
I enjoyed this immensely, and I think you will, too, if you give it a shot.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Roasted Beef, Mushroom, and Barley Soup
makes 3 servings
1 pound sirloin steak, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 pound mushrooms, halved
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup barley

Preheat oven to 425F.  On a rimmed baking sheet, toss together the steak, mushrooms, shallots and olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Arrange in a single layer and roast until beef and mushrooms are browned, 30 minutes.  Transfer to a soup pot and add chicken broth and barley.  Bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce and simmer until barley is soft, about 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat and cover the pot for 15 minutes (this allows the barley to soak up more of the liquid, soften, and swell).  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Spinach, Ham, and Rice Casserole

I have to admit -- I love a good casserole.  I mean, what's not to love??!  Meat, carbs, and vegetables, all baked together, usually with a good amount of cheese, in one simple dish.  On the flip side, I REFUSE to eat anything that has condensed soup listed as one of it's ingredients.  Those canned soups are so goopy and salty and greasy and slimy and...I could go on forever!!  And don't even get me started on how they can't possibly be any good for you!  I try to make as much of meals as possible from scratch.  This doesn't mean that I won't buy sliced bread or jarred pasta sauce, but I do try to do as much as possible myself because it is the easiest way to control the quality of the food that my family and I eat.
All that being said, this is a great, simple recipe.  It's a wonderful way to use up leftover rice, and it can really be made with any sort of leftovers that you might have.  You could easily swap in any veggies you might have for the frozen chopped spinach, and definitely any sort of leftover meat would be great in place of the ham.  This was an easy one for me to make this evening after I got home from work because I already had all the ingredients on hand.  All I had to do was remember to defrost the spinach, and the rest of it was a piece of cake.  The chewy rice is a nice contrast to the sharpness of the cheese and the earthy flavor of spinach.  The ham serves as a nice, salty surprise in ever bite.  It's a dish that doesn't require many ingredients, so make sure you use a quality wine and cheese because you really do taste them in the final product.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Spinach, Ham, and Rice Casserole
serves 4
2 packages (10 ounces each) chopped frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 cups brown rice (I made it in the rice cooker)
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
4 ounces grated Gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound ham, diced

Preheat oven to 375F.  In a large bowl, combine spinach, rice, milk, eggs, and 3/4 cup cheese, and season with salt and pepper.  In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high, and add onion and garlic.  Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft and beginning to brown.  Add wine and cook until evaporated, about 5 minutes.  Add ham and cook until warmed through, about 3 minutes
Add ham mixture to spinach mixture and stir to combine.  Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish sprayed lightly with cooking spray and top with remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.  Bake until warmed through and golden brown on top, about 30 minutes.
Adapted from Martha Stewart as it appeared in the April 2010 Everyday Food
441 calories, 18.8 grams fat, 29.4 grams protein, 34.2 grams carbohydrates, 5.2 grams fiber

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie

So, I think I have been in the mood for Mexican lately.  I can think of at least 3 dishes I've made in the past week that involved black beans!!  Maybe next week I'll choose a different cuisine to get obsessed with!
This is a super simple dish that you will want to DEVOUR!!  My husband declared it "Delicious!" and helped himself to more than one serving.  You can top it with pretty much anything you'd like, but I went with the standard scoop of salsa.  In the past I have loaded on the sour cream, but since I'm trying to be healthier these days, sour cream didn't make the cut.  I bet even crumbled up tortilla chips would be great, adding a crunch factor.
This is a great dish you can prepare in advance, individual servings freeze beautiful, and the leftovers are wonderful.  Can I say enough good things about this meal??!  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Tortilla and Black Bean Pie
4 10-inch whole wheat flour tortillas
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, dicred
1 jalapeno, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
12 ounces beer (I used a bottle of Guinness)
10 ounces frozen corn
4 scallions, thinly sliced
8 ounces shredded cheese (I used 4 ounces each Cheddar and Colby Jack)

Preheat the oven to 400F. 
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Add onion, jalapeno, garlic, and cumin.  Season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened, 5-7 minutes. 
Add the beans and beer to the skillet, and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, 8-10 minutes.  Remove from the heat, and stir in the corn and scallions.  Season with salt and pepper.
Fit a tortilla in the bottom of the springform pan and layer with 1/4 of the beans and 1/2 cup cheese.  Repeat three times, using 1 cup cheese on the top layer.  Bake until hot and the cheese is melted, about 25 minutes.  Unmold the pie, slice into wedges, and serve with garnishes.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
per serving: 448 calories, 18.5 grams fat, 20.3 grams protein, 51.8rams carbohydrates, 7.1 grams fiber

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Spicy Black Bean Soup

We were supposed to be snowed in today, but apparently the weather gods did not get the memo.  Here in New Jersey, we got about 6-8 inches of snow overnight (hard to tell exactly how much because the wind moves things around so much), but that doesn't stop us from doing much around here.  A few weeks ago, we had over 2 feet, so this is nothing compared to that!
I had planned on staying in all day with the baby, soups bubbling away on the stovetop, curling up by the fireplace.  Well, that didn't quite happen.  When you know the roads are clear and you have things to do, it's hard to justify staying in all day and cuddling!  I was still, however, able to make a pot of soup that will be PERFECT for dinner tonight.

This is a very simple, straightforward soup, and the flavors in it are pretty classic.  You basically fry up a piece of ham for garnish, and put it to the side.  Cook up some aromatics, add some beans and water, let it simmer for awhile...and that's all, folks!  Very clean, Mexican-type flavors, but oh what a delicious soup it makes.  This would even be good with a dollop of sour cream on top, a cool creamy contrast to the dark, pureed beans and grassy green cilantro.  A wonderful, effortless dish, perfect for a cold winter's night.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Spicy Black Bean Soup
serves 4
8 ounces cooked ham in one 1/2-inch thick slice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon oregano
3 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups water
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves

In a large soup pot, cook ham over medium-high heat until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a cutting board.
Add oil to the pot.  Cook onion and garlic, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Add jalapeno, cumin, and oregano, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add beans and water and simmer for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in cilantro leaves.  Using an immersion blender, puree mixture until smooth.  If soup is too thick, add more water to the pot.  If soup is too thin, continue simmering on the stove until desired consistency is achieved.  .
To serve, top with cubes of ham, cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa, etc.
Adapted from Martha Stewart and her book Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast

Monday, January 10, 2011

Baked Tortellini with Bacon

I love pasta.  There.  I said it.  But, to be honest, I really don't make it often.  It's kind of like rice -- I am just too lazy.  I really am.  I'm too lazy to boil the water, leaving the pasta to bubble away for 9-11 minutes.  I'm too lazy to clean another pot after I've cooked an entire meal and just want to lazy around with the family.  I'm lazy.
But this dish is worth making.  First off, it requires the use of a fresh tortellini, which hardly takes any time at all to cook up.  Secondly, you end up cooking the pasta in the same pot that you made the sauce in, so it doesn't create any new mess or pots and pans to clean.  (Okay, so I clearly hate doing dishes, have I made that clear?).
And by the way -- this is an easy and delicious meal, perfect for a weeknight meal!

You basically make a white sauce, toss in the tortellini and let it bubble away, then broil for a few minutes to make a cheesy, crusty topping.  Voila!  It's really delicious!  I know it's no gourmet meal, but my husband and I really did enjoy it, and I will probably be making it again.  The servings are on the small side, but it is a pretty rich dish, so you really don't need to eat a huge amount of it.  The creamy cheese sauce with the soft, gently cooked pasta and cheesy topping is perfectly accented by the smoky bacon bits dispersed throughout.  You should definitely give this dish a shot.  It is definitely worth the minimal effort you put into it.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Baked Tortellini with Bacon
4 slices bacon, but into 1/2-inch pieces (I used applewood smoked, it's what I had on hand)
1 onion, medium-diced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon flour
2 cups milk
2 packages (8.8 ounces each) cheese tortellini
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat broiler, with rack in top position.  In a medium saucepan, cook bacon over medium heat until brown and crisped, about 10 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel to drain.  Add onion and garlic to pan, seasoning with salt and pepper (go easy on the salt -- the bacon adds plenty to the recipe on it's own).  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 8 minutes.  Add flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds.
Slowly add milk while whisking.  Add tortellini and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce to a simmer, and cook, stirring often, until mixture is thickened, about 4 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in bacon and 1/4 cup Parmesan.  Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish lightly sprayed with cooking spray.  Top with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan and broil for 5 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Peanut Butter Cheescake Swirl Brownies

My pictures do this recipe no justice.  This is one extra fudgy, ooey gooey, super chocolatey brownie.  I might even go so far as to say that this is more of a cheesecake than it is a brownie.  I wasn't able to get a picture of just one square because I was transporting this to my brother's house, and I was only able to take the picture of the whole pan.
I know I had promised I was going to cook healthier in the New Year, but we were invited over for dinner and I had been commissioned to make dessert.  My brother LOVES the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, so I thought this would be a perfect time to give this recipe a shot.  I had seen the recipe over at Annie's Eats and she does such a great job of photographing her food, I couldn't resist.  I think the addition of cream cheese to the actual batter of the brownie, instead of just the peanut butter swirl, is what makes this such a fudgy sweet dessert.  Bake up a pan and let me know what you think!

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl Brownies
for the brownies:
14 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
6 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup flour

for the peanut butter swirl:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
6 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line a 9x13 inch baking pan with foil.  Lightly spray with cooking spray.  Combine the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is smooth and completely melted.  Remove from the heat and whisk in cocoa, sugar, eggs, and cream cheese until smooth.  Mix in salt and flour.  Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan.
To make the peanut butter cheesecake swirl, combine cream cheese, peanut butter, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beating until completely smooth.  Blend in egg and vanilla.
Drop spoonfuls of the peanut butter mixture over the brownie batter.  Use a knife to swirl the peanut butter into the batter.  Bake 35 minutes, until the center is set.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Cover and refrigerate until well chilled before slicing and serving.
Adapted from Annie's Eats

Friday, January 7, 2011

Tex-Mex Turkey and Bean Chili

I have really been in a soup and stew kind of mood lately, so I decided to try a new chili recipe instead of the gold standard one that I always use, from Ellie Krieger (which is FABULOUS!).  I was originally drawn to this one because it contained a few ingredients I am not used to using when making chili, namely cocoa powder, molasses, and bacon.  After reading through the recipe, I decided that starting a chili off by rendering some bacon is a wonderful idea, and I was almost disappointed in myself for not having thought of it first!  I used applewood smoked bacon, so it had almost a sweetness to it right off the bat, which I thought was really nice.

I must warn you -- this recipe makes a HUGE BATCH of chili!!  The recipe read that it makes 8 servings, so I thought it would be something that my husband and I could eat for a day or two, then I could freeze whatever remained.  Holy moly, was that ever the truth!  This makes 8 servings if each person is absolutely famished and eating a Fred Flintstone-sized bowl!  I guess I should have known when I read that it required 3 pounds of ground turkey, but I guess I just wasn't thinking.  Either way, it turned out very delicious and my husband and I both enjoyed it.  It won't be replacing the chili recipe I already have, but it was a nice take on an old favorite.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Tex-Mex Turkey and Bean Chili
makes 8 mammoth servings
4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick strips
3 lbs ground turkey (I used 94% lean)
4 onions, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeno chiles, minced
3 tablespoons chili powder
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 cans (28 ounces each) crushed tomatoes in puree
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup water
3 cans (15 1/2 ounces each) pinto beans, drained and rinsed

Heat a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp.  Raise heat to high and add turkey.  Cook, stirring to break up the meat, until no longer pink.
Add onions, garlic, and jalapenos and cook until soft.  Stir in chili powder, cocoa, and cumin, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add tomatoes, molasses, water, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to the pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, partially covered, for 30 minutes.
Add beans and continue cooking, uncovered, until turkey is very tender and liquid has thickened, about 30 minutes more.  Serve hot, with assorted toppings (such as cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, etc).
Adapted from Martha Stewart, also available in her book Everyday Food: Fresh Flavor Fast
per serving: 480 calories, 13.7 grams fat, 46.6 grams protein, 32.8 grams carbohydrates, 4.3 grams fiber

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lentil Soup

I must admit, I love this soup so much that I have been known to make it even in the summertime, when it is over 90 degrees out, and my husband and I will still finish the entire batch!  There is just something so delicious about the tender, almost chewy meatiness of the lentils, combined with the hearty chunkiness of the carrots and onions.  It really is a thing of beauty.
I think what really makes this soup delicious is the addition of red-wine vinegar at the very end.  Do not skip this step!  The vinegar really brightens up the entire dish and makes all the other flavors sing.  It is such a simple soup, but so worth making.
This is one of those soups that I like to make when I have a little bit of extra time at home -- it freezes very nicely.  I like to top it off with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper and sometimes even a little bit of grated Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy the deliciousness!

Lentil Soup (serves 4)
3 strips of bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled, halve lengthwise, and cut into 1/4-inch half moons
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) reduced-sodium chicken broth (3 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium-low heat until browned and crisp, 8-10 minutes.  Add the onion and carrots, cooking until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in garlic, cooking until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Stir in tomato paste, and cook for 1 minute.
Add the lentils and thyme, stirring until evenly mixed in with vegetables.  Add broth and 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the lentils are tender, about 30-45 minutes.  If the soup becomes too thick, add up to 1 more cup water.
Stir in the vinegar and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Adapted from Martha Stewart
per serving: 346 calories, 4.3 grams fat, 26.1 grams protein, 54.1 grams carbohydrates, 24.7 grams fiber

Monday, January 3, 2011

Spinach and Cheddar Strata

Now, I'm not one to make lofty New Year's resolutions.  I feel that it is important to eat healthy and be active all year long, not just in January.  But I am also realistic and know that many of us indulge a little bit more than usual during the holidays, so I think it is important to get back to our routines and schedules and back to a healthier lifestyle now that we have rung in the new year.  I promised you I would go back to my normal way of cooking after the first of the year (enough cookie recipes!), and I don't want to let you down.  So, today I decided to bake up something easy, with ingredients I already had on hand.  Spinach and Cheddar Strata was just the thing!
This is a pretty simple and straightforward recipe, and really, I think it is more of a technique than anything else.  I feel like I will be making this quite often in the future, basically just throwing in whatever leftover vegetables and meat I may have laying around that I want to use up. 

I followed this Martha Stewart recipe, and it was great because I could make the strata up ahead of time and let it hang out in the refrigerator for a few hours until I was ready to bake it.  The only thing I would do differently next time is to maybe mix the shredded cheese in with the spinach and bread rather than adding it to the egg and milk mixture.  I found that following the recipe as written, all the cheese ended up on top, rather than mixed throughout, so it seemed kind of pointless to me to add another 1/2 cup cheese on top of that (don't get me wrong, I did it anyway...come on, who doesn't love ooey, gooey melted cheese??!).  All in all, a wonderful recipe and a terrific way to jump-start healthy eating in the New Year. 

Spinach and Cheddar Strata
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
10 ounces fresh baby spinach
3 cups day-old bread (preferably something chewy...I used a leftover loaf of 7-grain)
5 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup milk
3 ounces grated Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400F.  in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high.  Add spinach and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted, about 2 minutes.  Transfer to a colander and drain, pressing with a rubber spatula to release as much liquid as possible.  Combine spinach and bread in a large bowl, mixing until evenly distributed.  Transfer to an 8-inch square baking dish lightly sprayed with cooking spray. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, and 3/4 cup cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour egg mixture over bread cubes in prepared dish, pressing down on bread lightly.  Top with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.  Bake for 35 minutes.

Adapted from Martha Stewart