Monday, February 28, 2011

Butternut Squash Soup

Besides the creamy texture and fantastic taste of this dish, I really love that this blended soup allows me to consume a wide variety of vegetables in mass quantity! And because I buy many of the vegetables pre-cut at my local grocery store, it is very easy to prepare! I literally throw everything into a pot and leave! How simple is that!?

This soup is truly so delicious I wouldn’t hesitate serving it at a dinner party or making it for a family who just had a baby and needed a meal! I have played around with the ingredients for awhile now and I think I have finally nailed it! It’s the apple! I really gives it a subtly sweet flavor without going over board!

2 Tbl butter or olive oil
4 cups cubed/peeled butternut squash (Central Market and Whole Foods sell
fresh butternut squash already peeled & cubed. You can also find it peeled and cubed in the frozen food section. AND if you want to go all out and by a whole butternut squash, one squash will yield approx. 4 cups)
1 small sweet potato or yam, peeled and cubed
2 sliced leeks* (again, I buy these already sliced at CM- saves time! If you are slicing the leeks yourself, use only the white & light green parts)
2 medium red potatoes cubed (I leave the skin on- extra vitamins & fiber!)
1 medium apple, cored & peeled, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 - 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (according to your spice preference)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 c chicken broth (1 carton)
1 c low-fat milk (use more for a thinner consistency)

1. Melt butter (or olive oil) in a large soup pot and add squash through cinnamon. Saute for 6 -8 min.
2. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft.
3. Place half of the soup mixture in a blender (it is better to wait until it has cooled...or if you can’t wait and it's hot, make sure you take the center piece off the blender lid to let the heat escape- put a towel over this). Repeat with remaining soup. Put all the blended soup back into the pot.
4. Stir in milk just before serving and reheat until desired eating temperature.

*If you cannot find leeks, substitute for half an onion, roughly chopped
**I serve this soup with a sliced baguette sprinkled with shredded gruyere
cheese & pepper and toasted in the oven. YUM!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Eat Your Veggies Stir Fry

I keep a little “Kelly’s wants” list going in my day planner...things I don’t really need, but, would make great anniversary/birthday/Christmas gifts. After making this dish the other night I promptly add “wok” to it. I don’t have one, I don’t necessarily need one (afterall, I only cook stir fry a handful of times a year), but, it would be nice to add one to my arsenal of baking/cooking supplies!

The key to making a yummy stir-fry is to use cold rice (it’s a texture thing!)...So, this is a great way to use up some left-over rice! Or if you’re making rice on the same day of the stir fry, do so hours before so it has time to get cold in the refrigerator.

4 cups of cooked cold brown rice
1 1/2 Tbl canola oil
1 c. onion, chopped
1 Tbl garlic, minced
1/2 c. green beans, cut into 1” pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 c. broccoli, chopped
1/2 - 1 c. diced ham (I use a ham steak)
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 1/2 tsp dark sesame oil
A couple handfuls of dry roasted peanuts (optional)

1. Cook rice accordingly to directions (for added flavor I substitute the cooking water for chicken or vegetable broth). Set rice aside and let completely cool in the refrigerator for hours.
2. Heat a large pan (or wok) over high heat. Add canola oil to the pan and swirl to coat. Add chopped onion and garlic; stir fry for one minute. Add diced ham. Cook for two minutes- until it starts to brown. Add beans, peppers & broccoli. Stir fry another two minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium. Add the cold rice; stir fry for two minutes, incorporating rice into veggie mixture. Add soy sauce and sesame oil. Stir fry another minute or two.
Plate fried rice. Sprinkle with dry roasted peanuts (we use a lot!). Enjoy!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cowboy Cookies

Yeehaw! These cowboy cookies are worth hollering about! And let me tell you, so is the dough! Best darn cookie dough I've ever had! Don't try to hold back...let yourself have a little smidge- it's delicious!

2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1/2 c white sugar
1 1/2 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c flour, sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c wheat germ*
2 c oats
1 c coconut
1 1/2 c chocolate chips
1/2 c pecans, chopped

1. Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugars together. Add eggs.
2. Add flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into the bowl with creamed sugars. Mix well with the hand mixer.
3. At this point, trade the hand mixer in for a wooden spoon. Add wheat germ and oats. Stir well. Add coconut, chocolate chips and pecans. You need to put a little muscle into it...this cookie dough is thick!
4. Drop by tablespoon onto a lightly greased cookie sheet- two inches apart. I like to use a cookie scooper for consistency.
5. Bake at 350F for 12-13 minutes. I learned a long time ago that cookies taste best when they are slightly undercooked. So, you'll have to judge their "done-ness" for yourself. They should definitely turn a light golden brown.
6. Cool on the tray for 10 minutes before transferring them to a platter.

This recipe makes a ton of cookies. You can easily cut it in half if you just want to make enough for your family.

*If you do not have wheat germ, just substitute it for 1/4 c of flour- giving you a total of 2 cups of flour.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Corkscrew Pasta with Bacon & Asparagus

This pasta dish is just flat out yummy! The dressing is light and fresh and the bacon gives the meal a rich savory flavor. It doesn’t really matter if this cools off a bit before you serve tastes great warm or cold. I serve it with baguette slices topped with goat cheese, jam & walnuts. Hello?! Can you say delish!?

Pasta Ingredients:
1/2 lb corkscrew pasta
1 bunch of asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 slices of bacon
1/4 pine nuts
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese

2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbl lemon juice
1 Tbl white wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
Whisk all dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside until just ready to serve.

1.Cook pasta according to the directions on the box.
2.Drizzle a little olive oil over cut asparagus. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. Roast the asparagus in the oven on 425F for approx 8 min or until asparagus is crisp tender.
3.Cook bacon till crisp in a large pan. Remove bacon and set aside. Drain all but 1 tsp of bacon grease from the pan. Chop bacon into little pieces.
4.Saute pine nuts over med/low heat in bacon grease until lightly browned. Add minced garlic to pine nuts and saute for one minute.
5.Add drained pasta noodles, roasted asparagus and chopped bacon to the pan with nuts and garlic. Add whisked dressing. Mix well to incorporate all ingredients.
Top with cheese just before serving.

Easy Baguette Slices Topped with Goat Cheese & Jam

Okay, the name says it all! Get a fresh, soft baguette. Slice into 1/2 inch thick slices. Brush a little olive oil on the top of each slice. Cook for 5 minutes in a preheated 350F oven. Top each toasted slice with soft goat cheese, then your favorite jam preserve & chopped toasted walnuts. Easy-peasy and super yum!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Love Affair with Kind Bars

In honor of Valentine's Day, I thought I would confess that I am having a serious love affair with Kind Bars. Oh yum. Oh yum yum yum! How can they taste so good and still be healthful? All natural ingredients, lots of nuts, some bars are even dipped in dark chocolate. I have tried quite a few- they are all delicious...but, my absolute favorite is Almond Coconut. It is pure heaven! From the very first bite I am dreading that soon I will be taking my last...I never want this bar to end!

You can find them at Whole Foods, Starbucks, Kroger's, and other super markets.

Yes, it is true. I have a huge crush on these candy-bar-esque health bars. I'm guessing that after you try them, you will, too!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Orzo Cherry Salad

This salad has come to be after much trial and error! My husband and I were served this dish ages ago on a vacation. We loved it so much I decided to make it when we got home. The main ingredients were easy enough to duplicate (although, the addition of the wilted spinach and toasted pine-nuts were my add-ons); it was the dressing that I had trouble with! I just couldn’t seem to get it right! Finally, my husband nailed it- I wasn’t using enough balsamic vinegar! “Put in as much vinegar as you do oil,” he said! “NO way,” was my reply! “That’s so much vinegar!” But, I did as he suggested and well, he was right! It was the vinegar!

1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbl orange juice
4-6 whole cloves garlic, peeled
A whole bunch of basil- about 20 leaves

1 lb orzo pasta
3-4 c. raw baby leaf spinach
1 c. dried cherries (not cranberries...although, if you absolutely cannot find cherries, I’m sure cranberries would be sufficient)
1 c. pine nuts, toasted in 1 Tbl olive oil
1/2-1 tsp salt
1-2 chicken breasts, cooked & cut into bite sized pieces
Feta cheese, crumbled

1.Cook orzo pasta according to the directions on the box.
2.While pasta is cooking put the spinach in large bowl.
3.Put olive oil in a nonstick pan over low medium heat. Toast the pine-nuts in the oil for about five minutes until they are golden brown.
Drain the orzo completely. Immediately put the hot orzo on top of the spinach. Leave it be for at least 5 minutes. The hot orzo will wilt the spinach.
4.Put all the dressing ingredients in a blender and just blend away until the dressing is completely smooth.
5.Pour the dressing on top of the orzo/spinach and stir, mixing well.
6.Add the salt, toasted pine-nuts, cherries & chicken to the orzo/spinach mixture.
7.Chill salad in the refrigerator for at least three hours.
8.Sprinkle feta cheese onto each dish just before serving.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Yummy Hunny Chili

There aren’t too many things my husband likes more than a hot bowl of chili for dinner! And over the years, I have made many different kinds of chili! Some with meat, some without. Some super spicy, some loaded with veggies; a few recipes have even included beer! After years of trying all sorts of chilis, my husband and I agree that this one is really the best! The honey gives it a sweet flavor that pairs nicely with the smokey taste of the chili powder! I use my favorite beans- garbanzo (aka chickpeas) and his favorite beans- black. Use two cans of whatever beans you want! Kidney, navy, pinto...And if you want to make this chili vegetarian, omit the beef and add a third can of beans! FIBER to the rescue!

2 Tbl extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb each of lean ground beef and ground pork (or if you would rather, just use the beef. I love the flavor ground pork gives this chili, though)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1 14oz can garbanzo beans, drained & rinsed
1 14oz can black beans, drained & rinsed
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4 c. tomato paste
2 Tbl honey
1 Tbl chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
10 shakes of Tabasco
Shredded cheddar & Greek yogurt for topping (or sour cream)

1.Heat oil in a large pot. Add ground beef and break up into small chunks. Cook until browned.
2. Add onion, garlic & red bell pepper. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the beans, tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, honey, and all the seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for two hours.
3. Serve chili with shredded cheese and a dollop of Greek yogurt (Fage yogurt is my favorite!).

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Colorful Pasta Salad

This salad is easy to make, tastes great and makes enough for two nights (that is if the kids aren’t eating it...but, don’t rule that out...two out of three of my children love it!). It is light, refreshing and full of flavor! Raw vegetables are full of food digesting enzymes. All the veggies in this recipe are raw...and yes, so is the sweet potato. Now listen, do not be afraid of raw sweet is sweet and delicious and when grated, it looks JUST like carrots! So, if your husband or kids raise an eyebrow, just tell one tiny little fib, “Oh those? Oh, those are grated carrots. You love carrots!” and they will be none the wiser!

1/2 c. mayo (yes, that’s a lot of mayo...but, relax, you’ll be eating a ton of veggies because of it! It all balances out!)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbl of soy sauce
1 Tbl lemon juice
2 Tbl apple cider vinegar
1-2 Tbl dried or fresh dill, to taste (we like a lot of it!)

1 lb. pasta noodles (spirals, penne or bow-tie work best)
15 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1-2 carrots, GRATED
1/2 sweet potato, RAW, PEELED & GRATED (you must grate this...I know, I hate grating, too...but, you must grate this to get the right texture)
1 c. frozen shelled edamame (just throw them in the time you eat the salad, they will have defrosted...could it be any easier!?)
1 yellow or red bell pepper, chopped

Cook pasta according to directions on the box.
Make the dressing first in the bowl you intend to make the salad saves time and makes for easier clean up. Whisk all the dressing ingredients together till smooth.
Now it is time to start chopping and grating...put all the veggies in the bowl with the dressing. Mix well.
Add the cooked and slightly cooled pasta to the veggies/dressing mixture. Mix well.
Let this salad cool in the refrigerator for at least two hours....the longer it has to marinate the better. We actually enjoy this better the next day!
*I serve this salad with a yummy crusty bread like ciabatta.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Fire Roasted Tomato & Carrot Soup with Fancy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Okay, this soup is good. I mean, it’s really good! And look at the’s healthy, too. I mean, it’s really healthy! Because the soup is pureed in a blender, it is thick and creamy. I promise you will NOT miss the heavy cream typically used in tomato soup. Veggies have never tasted so yummy!

2 Tlb olive oil
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
10 cloves of garlic, (just throw them whole into the pot!)
Pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
2 carrots, roughly chopped
14 oz can vegetable broth
1 28oz can of FIRE ROASTED tomatoes (if you use any tomato other than fire roasted, I will not take responsibility for the outcome of your soup!!)
1/2 tsp salt
1 large bunch of basil (save a few out if also making the Fancy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches)
1 Tbl pure maple syrup or brown sugar
1 c. 1% milk
4 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled (optional)

1. Heat a large pot over medium heat.
2. Add oil to pot. Cook onions, garlic, pepper flakes (if using) & carrots in oil for 10 mins or until the carrots are slightly tender.

3. Add broth, canned tomatoes, syrup & basil leaves.
4. Heat till boiling. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 mins.
5. The next step is to blend all the ingredients in a blender. I suggest letting the soup cool completely before you do this. If you don't have time to wait, then you MUST take the plastic piece out of the top of the blender before blending (and cover with a clean dish towel)- this allows for the heat to escape. If you don't let the heat escape, then the hot soup will expand and will blow the lid off the blender burning you and creating a horrible mess. Can you tell I am writing this from experience!? :) You may have to blend in batches if you double the recipe.
6. Return blended soup to the pot. Add the milk. Ladle into soup bowls. Garnish with bacon crumbles if you want to be just a little bit naughty.
*Serve with Fancy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (recipe below).

Fancy Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

Panini Maker
4 large slices of good sourdough bread
Olive oil or butter
4-6 slices of Havarti cheese
4-5 basil leaves, thinly sliced
2-4 Tbl of apricot or peach preserves
(or if you prefer, a spicy jalapeno jelly; tonight I used a fig & lemon marmalade. Basically, just use a jam that you enjoy!)

1. Turn the panini maker on
2. Brush the outsides of all four pieces of bread with butter or olive oil
Spread 1/2 to 1 Tbl of preserves on the inside of each piece of bread- whatever your desired amount of sweetness might be.
4. Put 2 or 3 slices of Havarti cheese on each sandwich. Sprinkle on sliced basil.
5. Cook in the panini maker till cheese is melted and the outside is golden and crispy

*Let me state for the record that each and every one of you should own a panini maker. If you do not, buy one now or put it on your Mother's Day list, Birthday list, Christmas list, St. Patrick's Day list...whatever! Just get one! They are fantastic and will help you make gourmet sandwiches for dinner in a snap! Your family will be thrilled!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Yogurt Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

Some days are just meant for baking banana bread! Especially those days when you find two super ripe bananas sitting on your counter! Yes, I planned on making my go-to banana bread recipe while my kids ate their breakfast. However, my daughter inspired me to jazz it up a bit and create my own recipe after she rejected the banana yogurt I offered her for breakfast. I threw the yogurt and ripe bananas into a mixing bowl and mashed away! Of course she ate the bread! It may have been the chocolate chips that got her, but, I’d like to think it was the yogurt...

2 ripe bananas
4 or 6oz carton of banana flavored yogurt (or any yogurt you have in the fridge- vanilla works great, too)
5 Tbl. of butter, melted
1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. oat bran*
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c. chocolate chips
1/4 c. cinnamon chips (optional- but recommended!)

Mash the bananas and yogurt together. Add the butter and sugars to the banana mixture and beat until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time. Next add the dry ingredients and mix. Fold in the chocolate chips. Pour batter into a greased 9X5" loaf pan and bake at 350F for 53-55 minutes. Let bread cool for 20 minutes before removing from the pan. I recommend using a serrated knife to slice! Enjoy!
*If you do not have oat bran, add an extra 1/4 c. flour