Monday, February 25, 2008

Spicy Black-and-Red Bean Soup

from Cooking Light

Geoff and I had this tonight, and it was really good. We did it in the slow cooker, on low for about 12 hours. The carrots and corn weren't totally mushy, which I liked; perhaps if I'd actually followed the directions they wouldn't have been.

Cooking spray
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/4 cups sliced carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons sugar
1 (16-ounce) package frozen shoepeg white corn
1 (15-ounce) can red beans or kidney beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (14.5-ounce) can Mexican-style stewed tomatoes with jalapeño peppers and spices, undrained (I used diced tomatoes with jalapenos)
1 (14.5-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (4.5-ounce) can chopped green chiles

Place a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion, carrot, and garlic; sauté 5 minutes. Stir in broth and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 hours.

To use a slow cooker, combine everything in the pot, and cook on HIGH for the first hour; then turn the temperature down to LOW, and cook 7 more hours.


Lentil and sausage soup

In keeping with our pact to use up all the dried beans in the house before I bought more (errr....I did buy a bag of barley on a whim this weekend, and have no idea what to use it in), I'm making this lentil soup right now for lunches for the rest of the week.
It was easy to put together, I had all the ingredients in the house and it tastes good, too. My adaptations in parenthesis.

from Better Homes and Gardens "Celebrating the Promise"

2 14-ounce cans reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 c. water
1 c. brown lentils, rinsed and drained
1 c. sliced celery (I omitted, since I had none in the house)
1 c. sliced carrot
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 tsp. snipped fresh thyme, or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper (I used chipotle pepper here)
2 cloves garlic (I used 3, more garlic is always better in my book)
6 oz. cooked smoked sausage links, quartered and sliced (I used some Italian sausage I had in the freezer, just sliced it up. I think any kind of sausage would work.)

In a large saucepan combine broth, water, lentils, celery, carrot, onion, dried thyme (if using), cayenne pepper and garlic. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat.
(I added the sausage here, because they weren't cooked all the way through)
Simmer, covered for 20-25 minutes, until vegetables and lentils are tender.
If you used cooked sausage, add it now, and add fresh thyme if using. Heat through.

Fudgy brownies

I was craving something chocolate last night, and definitely did not have the time or ingredients to make the sort of chocolate cake I was envisioning. (G - will you make me a chocolate cake?)
Instead, I flipped through my cookbooks looking for something that would take care of the chocolate-cakey cravings, and these did the job nicely. Quick to pull together and I had all the ingredients on hand, I was able to make the batter while dinner (pasta shells stuffed with ricotta cheese) were in the oven, and they were done by the time we were done eating.

from Better Homes and Gardens new cookbook "Celebrating the promise"

1/2 c. butter
3 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium saucepan, melt butter and chocolate over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, cool.
Grease an 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 pan, put aside. Stir sugar into melted cooled chocolate in saucepan. Add eggs one at a time, beating until just combined. Add vanilla.
In a small mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking soda. Add to chocolate mixture. Stir until just combined. If desired, add nuts. Spread batter into prepared pan.
Bake for 30 minutes for 8-inch pan or 20 minutes for 9-inch pan.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Chicken Piccata

From: Simply Recipes

This is a basic recipe, which is good on it's own. You can also alter it by adding additional ingredients to the sauce, such as: thinly sliced lemons, sliced mushrooms, a touch of cream, spinach, peas, etc. When I made it, I added sliced lemons as I was simmering the sauce to reduce it. At the very end I whisked in a touch of milk to make it a bit more creamy.

2-4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (1 1/2 pound total)
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup flour
Salt and pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chicken stock or dry white wine
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup brined capers
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

1 Cut the chicken breast halves horizontally, butterflying them open, or put breasts between pieces of plastic wrap and pound with a meat pounder/tenderizer. Chicken should be 1/4" thick when finished with this process.

2 Mix together the flour, salt, pepper, and grated Parmesan. Rinse the chicken pieces in water. Dredge them thoroughly in the flour mixture, until well coated.

3 Heat olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large skillet on medium high heat. Add half of the chicken pieces, do not crowd the pan. Brown well on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove the chicken from the pan and reserve to a plate. Cook the other breasts in the same manner, remove from pan. Cover with aluminum foil and keep warm in the oven while you prepare the sauce.

4 Add the chicken stock (or white wine), lemon juice, and capers to the pan. Use a spatula to scrape up the browned bits. Reduce the sauce by half. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Plate the chicken and serve with the sauce poured over the chicken. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serves 4.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Buckwheat Banana Pancakes

This recipe is from Vegetarian Times and is not to be confused with Banana Buckwheat Pancakes which is a vegan recipe. Not that vegan recipes are bad but I like dairy and eggs in my pancakes. I also like to make breakfast for dinner--especially during bitterly cold February evenings. These went over quite well at our house and there was enough left over for Michael to have them for 2 more breakfasts.

1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Pinch salt
2 large eggs
1 cup nonfat milk or soymilk
1/2 cup plain nonfat yogurt
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 firm banana, diced
3 Tbs. shredded coconut (I'm not sure I'll bother with coconut next time)
  1. Put buckwheat flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a bowl, and set aside.
  2. Beat eggs until foamy in a second bowl. Stir in milk, yogurt and vegetable oil. Stir milk mixture into flour mixture just until free of lumps. Carefully fold banana and coconut into batter. Be sure to let your batter sit at least 5 min. before cooking. 10 min. or longer would be better.
  3. Heat a nonstick skillet, and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Ladle 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup of batter onto hot surface, and turn when bubbles appear on surface and bottoms turn golden, after about 2 to 3 minutes. Cook second side for 2 to 3 minutes, or until bottoms turn golden. Remove from heat, repeat with remaining batter and serve pancakes hot.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fish stew

This stew was inspired from a recipe I found on Simply Recipes.

6 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped (or put through the garlic press)
2/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or eyeball some dried parsley)
1 can diced tomato, with juice
2 Tbsp. of tomato paste.
8 oz of clam juice (or shellfish stock)
1 c. dry white wine
1 1/2 lb fish fillets (use halibut, cod, sole, red snapper, sea bass), cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 lb. shrimp
Frozen corn
Frozen green beans
Touch of dry oregano, Tabasco, thyme, pepper

Heat olive oil in heavy large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion and garlic and sauté 6 minutes. Add parsley and stir 2 minutes. Add tomato, tomato paste and cook 2 minutes longer.

Add clam juice, dry white wine, shrimp, corn, green beans and fish and simmer until fish and shrimp are cooked through, less than 10 minutes. Add seasoning. Salt to taste. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Vodka Cream Pasta

I don't recall seeing this posted before but if it's a repeat it's because it's just so darned good. I made this Rachel Ray recipe for Valentine's Day last week (and admittedly it's about the only thing I've cooked in the last week) and it was delicious.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced (I used one small yellow onion, minced)
1 cup vodka
1 cup chicken stock (I omitted this in favor of a bit of water used to rinse out the cans of crushed tomatoes)

1 can crushed tomatoes (32 ounces)

Coarse salt and pepper

16 ounces pasta (I used whole wheat penne)

1/2 cup heavy cream

20 leaves fresh basil, shredded or torn

Heat a large skillet over moderate heat. Add oil, butter, garlic, and shallots. Gently saute shallots for 3 to 5 minutes. Add vodka to the pan and reduce vodka by half, this will take 2 or 3 minutes. Add chicken stock and tomatoes. Bring sauce to a bubble and reduce heat to simmer. Season with salt and pepper.

While sauce simmers, cook pasta in salted boiling water until cooked to al dente.

Stir cream into sauce. When sauce returns to a bubble, remove it from heat. Drain pasta. Toss hot pasta with sauce and basil leaves.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Red lentil soup

from The Vegetarian Times Complete Cookbook

3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 medium-sized onions, chopped
1 c. red lentils
3 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
about 2 c. canned coconut milk (I used 1 can, which is slightly less than 2 c)
1 tsp salt, or more to taste
1 bay leaf
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 c. chopped cilantro (I omitted)

Heat 2 Tbsp. of oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they start to brown, about 10 minutes. Add 4 c. water, the lentils, carrots, coconut milk, salt and bay leaf. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, partially covered, until the lentils are tender, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 Tbsp. oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder and cilantro. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add to the soup.
Remove the bay leaf. Put the soup in a food processor or blender (or use your handy immersion blender), and puree until velvety smooth. Add more salt if needed, serve hot.

Basic muffins, with variations

Gwen posted this recipe a while back I think, with some of the variations she used. I'm going to post it again, with the two variations we made today.

from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

3 Tbsp. melted butter or canola or other neutral oil, plus some for greasing the muffin tin
2 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar, or to taste
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 egg
1 c. milk, plus more if needed

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a standard 12-compartment muffin tin.
Mix together the dry ingredients in a bowl. Beat together the egg, milk and butter or oil in another bolw. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ingredients into it. Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine the ingredients swiftly, stirring and folding rather than beating, and stop as soon as all the dry ingredients are moistened. The batter should be lumpy, not smooth, and thick but quite moist.
Spoon into muffin tins. Bake 20-30 minutes until nicely browned and a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes, before taking them out of the tin.

Here are two variations I used today:

Cranberry muffins:
Add 1 tsp. cinnamon to the dry ingredients, increase sugar to 1 cup. Stir 1 c. cranberries (frozen works, do no defrost before using) into the batter at the last minute. Good with 1 Tbsp. minced orange zest added to the batter.

Coffee cake muffins:
Mix together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 c. finely chopped walnuts, pecans or cashews, and 2 Tbsp. extra melted butter. Stir have this mixture into the original batter with the wet ingredients, and sprinkle the rest on top before baking.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

curry and miso udon soup

Another great one from everybody likes sandwiches. I made a lot of changes, which will be in brackets, but I think part of the beauty of this recipe is that it's very flexible.

4 c water (plus extra to cook the noodles) [I used a whole carton of vegetable broth, plus another 4c water]
1 cube of vegan vegetarian broth [I skipped]
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 onion, diced [I used whole]
2 inch piece of ginger, grated
1 heaping t of curry paste (or powder) [I used a lot more; would probably cut back next time because it came out crazily spicy]
2 heaping T of miso paste
a couple drops of toasted sesame oil
1/2 t soy sauce [I used more]
1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks [I used sliced portabello mushrooms -- my first time ever cooking with mushrooms of any kind!]
1/2 red pepper, cut into matchsticks [I used whole]
1 small head of broccoli, cut into florets [I used two baby bok choi]
1/2 block of tofu, diced
1 t sriracha (if you dare)
2 packets of fresh udon noodles [more would have been better; I essentially doubled this recipe, I guess]

1. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add in the onion, garlic and ginger. Whisk in the miso paste, curry, sesame oil and soy sauce. Add in the carrots, pepper and broccoli. Cover and reduce heat for 5 minutes.

2. While soup is cooking, boil water and add in the udon noodles. Boil for two minutes and drain. Add noodles and tofu to the soup. Add in the sriracha if you like it hot. Ladle into bowls and feel better about your day.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Wild Rice and Barley Salad

From Cooking Light, Jan/Feb 2008

I made this tonight, intending to eat it for my lunch most days this week, but then I ate about half of it as I was preparing tonight's dinner because it was so good. So, I didn't even get to the "chilling" step, or the basil or almonds. I just ate it warm out of the mixing bowl. Oh well. I think it would be good for a pot-luck or picnic side dish, too. (I used beef broth instead of chicken because I had some left over from another dish I was preparing at the same time - I think either would be fine, as would vegetable, probably.)

1 3/4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup uncooked brown and wild rice mix
1/2 cup uncooked pearl barley
3/4 cup rinsed and drained chickpeas
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp slivered almonds, toasted

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, simmer 40 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Spoon rice mixture into a medium bowl. Add chickpeas, raisins and green onions.

Combine vinegar and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a small bowl; whisk. Pour over barley mixture; toss well. Cover; chill 2 hours. Stir in basil and almonds.

Yield: 8 servings, serving size = 2/3 cup (2 WW points per serving)

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Pecan-crusted salmon with honey dijon glaze

I found this on another recipe blog (, though she got it from, and figured I'd post it over here. We made it tonight, and it was delicious and easy.

2 salmon fillets
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. dijon mustard
1/8 c. olive oil, or as needed to thin glaze
1 T lemon juice
1 1/2 cup shelled pecans, finely ground*
salt and pepper to taste

In small bowl combine honey, mustard, oil, lemon juice for glaze using just enough oil to keep glaze from getting too thick. Coat salmon lightly with glaze, then cover with ground pecans. Salt and pepper to taste. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake salmon on a baking sheet lined with foil for 12-15 minutes or until salmon flakes. Serve at once, top with more glaze if so desired.

* We definitely used less pecans than this, probably closer to a cup, including some that we put on our baked sweet potatoes.

Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting

Adapted from a Paula Deen recipe

For the cupcakes:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
1 cup buttermilk, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 tablespoons red food coloring
1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 pound cream cheese, softened
2 sticks butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
Chopped pecans and fresh raspberries or strawberries, for garnish (or red sugar like you'd use for decorating sugar cookies)

For the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) muffin pans with cupcake papers.
In a medium mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl gently beat together the oil, buttermilk, eggs, food coloring, vinegar, and vanilla with a handheld electric mixer.
Add the sifted dry ingredients to the wet and mix until smooth and thoroughly combined.
Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake tins about 2/3 filled. Bake in oven for about 20 to 22 minutes, turning the pans once, half way through. (For mini cupcakes, bake 11 minutes)
Test the cupcakes with a toothpick for doneness. Remove from oven and cool completely before frosting.

For the Cream Cheese Frosting:
In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, butter and vanilla together until smooth. Add the sugar and on low speed, beat until incorporated.
Increase the speed to high and mix until very light and fluffy.

Garnish with chopped pecans and a fresh raspberry or strawberry.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Sausage and gravy

Every good Southern girl, I think, should know how to make sausage and biscuits.
Although I'm no good at the homemade biscuits part, I did find a good recipe for the sausage gravy part, which you can find in its entirety here.

But here's how I did it:

1 package mild sausage
1 package refrigerator biscuits
3 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. butter
2 c. milk

First, cut the sausage into rounds, however thick you like. Brown the sausage in a pan while you heat the oven to bake the biscuits. I used a cast iron skillet, because I wanted the brown bits on the bottom.
After the sausage is cooked, remove it from the pan. Toss the grease.
Put the butter in the pan and melt it, then add 3 Tbsp. flour. I was always taught to make a roux you needed equal parts flour and fat.
Mix it all together, then let it cook a minute until it gets nice and brown. That's a good roux. Be sure to scrape up all the nice brown bits from the bottom of your pan. That's good stuff there.
Add the milk slowly to the roux. You'll make the it the thickness you want. We actually put 3 cups in and then had to add more flour, so if I were you, I'd start with two cups. Let it bubble for a few minutes, to thicken up. I crumbled a few pieces of sausage into the gravy, so that it was a little tastier. Salt and pepper to taste.
And really, that's all there is to it.

I wouldn't advise making this too often. It sure is tasty, but I can guarantee it's not good for you at all.