Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sweet Potato Risotto

My family loves sweet potatoes.  We stick 'em in enchiladas, make them into French fries, and even enjoy them in little tarts.  So, of course, I had to make this recipe when I saw it on Pinterest.  The recipe was originally posted by Ezra Pound Cake, which has a totally awesome blog.  You should definitely check it out (um, after you finish reading mine. duh.).  It is a perfect recipe for cold weather, and I think it would be extra fantastic with a pinch of sage and thyme thrown in for some Thanksgiving-style flavor.  Mmm... next time! Word of advice: don't skip the garnish. The parsley and toasted walnuts were an amazing addition, adding the perfect crunch and flavor to this dish.

I know what you're thinking... Risotto?  I know that you don't have time to be slaving over a hot stove, stirring endlessly while your dinner comes together.  This is a much quicker, yet still super delicious, method... and I know you'll like it. 

Sweet Potato Risotto
Yield: 4 servings

2 Tbsp butter
1lb sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 tsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
2/3 cup arborio rice
1/4 cup riesling wine (save the rest for drinking!)
2/3 cup mascarpone cheese
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley

Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add sweet potatoes, onion and ginger; saute approximately 15 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.
Remove from heat.

Cook rice in a small sauce pan of salted water or vegetable stock until just tender, but still firm to the bite, stirring frequently for about 15 minutes.
Drain rice.

Add rice to sweet potato mixture. Add riesling and stir over medium-low heat until blended. Stir in mascarpone until melted. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon risotto into bowls and top with parsley and toasted walnuts.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Thai Green Curry Soup

As much as it pains me to step.away.from.the.pumpkin... it must be done.  Otherwise, I'll probably turn all orange and mushy.  It just isn't good.

This week, I have some yummy and savory deliciousness to share with you.  

Don't mind the fact that this is probably the ugliest recipe you have ever seen.  anywhere.  EVER.

Seriously, it is an ugly-duckling of a recipe, but it tastes SO GOOD.  Warm and comforting, a little kick to it, creamy and hearty and all kinds of wonderfulness for this cold weather we've been having.

Ignore its appearance.  Make it.  Eat it.  Love it.

told you it wasn't pretty... don't judge. 

Thai Green Curry Lentil Soup
recipe from Simple Bites
Yield: 6 bowls of goodness

2 Tbsp coconut oil (or butter)
1 Tbsp curry powder (I used the BEST green curry powder EVER)
2 tsp minced garlic
1 large onion, chopped
5 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 cup green lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1 tsp sea salt

Melt coconut oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.  Ad curry powder, garlic and onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add vegetable stock and green lentils. Bring soup to a boil, then partially cover and reduce heat.  Simmer for 35-55 minutes, until lentils are tender (mine usually takes 50+ minutes).

When lentils are tender, remove soup from heat. Stir in coconut milk and salt. Puree to your desired consistency using an immersion blender or regular blender (in batches if using a regular blender).  I like my soup with a little bit of texture, but find out what works best for you!

Serve on its own or over rice with your choice of garnish: chopped chives, a little plain yogurt, a pinch of curry powder... a chocolate donut... get crazy!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Pumpkin Bars with Caramel Frosting

What did you just say?  Did you really just ask me to post another pumpkin recipe?  Don't you know how over pumpkin everyone is?  Huh?  People aren't over pumpkin yet?  Well, thank goodness, because I have a little dish full of deliciousness to share with you.  

These pumpkin bars are simple, sweet, warm with fall spices, and are the perfect nibble... every. single. time. you walk through the kitchen.  Nearly every pumpkin recipe out there seems to be slathered with cream cheese frosting.  Now, don't get me wrong - I love cream cheese frosting - but there is something unexpectedly fantastic about going with caramel.  

So, go on now... melt yourself some butter and get baking!

Pumpkin Bars with Caramel Frosting
recipe from A Pinch of Yum
Yield: 2-3 dozen, depending on how generously you slice them up

Bar Ingredients
2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 cup pumpkin puree 
4 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 cup melted butter

Frosting Ingredients
1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup milk (I used half&half)
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Grease/spray a 10 1/2 by 16 inch pan (if you use a smaller pan, you might need to put foil over the top halfway through to prevent over-browning before the middle cooks properly). 

Mix together bar ingredients, adding melted butter last.  Pour into prepared pan. Bake until cake springs back when lightly touched, approximately 40 minutes. Cool completely.

For the frosting, boil butter and brown sugar for two minutes.  Add the milk, whisking until well-combined. Bring it to a boil again, then add powdered sugar.  Whisk until smooth and pour over cooled cake immediately.  Frosting will set very fast, so be sure to pour it evenly over the cake to avoid having to spread with a spatula.

A little sprinkle of sea salt over the top of the frosting is delicious, and gives a nice contrast to the sweet frosting. Mmmm!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Best Chili EVER.

Sometimes I look into my spice cabinet and get completely overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of tiny glass jars sitting there.  How did I get so many?  And how in the world am I ever going to use them all up?  That is when I pull out the big guns - awesome, spice-heavy chili.  A batch of this deliciousness will serve a couple purposes:

1. It'll make you look like a chili-contest-winning, super-duper-amazing cook
2. It'll help you work through your never-ending rows of spices... so you can... well, buy more.

This is some seriously tasty chili.  I discovered the original recipe a few years ago at and made just a few minor tweaks (most notably, a big increase in bacon!).  It takes awhile to simmer, but the effort is so worth it.  Make sure you are using a BIG pot - this will feed a crowd! 

Best Chili EVER.
Yield: 16 bowls of goodness (freezes/reheats well)

2 pounds ground beef
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or links with casing removed)
3 (15oz) cans of beans (I use a mix of black, kidney, and cannelini beans)
1 (15oz) can of chili/pinto beans in spicy sauce
2 (28oz) cans diced tomatoes with juice (fire-roasted, if you can find them!)
1 (6oz) can tomato paste
1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1 can roasted green chilies 
3-4 slices of cooked bacon, crumbled
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp Beef Better then Bouillon (can substitute bouillon cubes)
1/2 cup beer
1/4 cup chili powder
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp hot pepper sauce (Tabasco)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp sugar

Garnish with:
Corn chips (Fritos) and shredded cheese

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Cook ground beef and sausage until evenly browned.  Drain off excess grease.

Pour in beans, tomatoes and tomato paste.

Add all remaining ingredients and stir to blend.

Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for at least 2 hours.

After 2 hours, taste and adjust salt, pepper, and chili powder, if needed. 

Serve with fritos, shredded cheese, and cornbread!

Oh, yeah, and sorry for the lack of photos. Chili isn't really the most photogenic food out there, you know? 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Oh, Nuts!

I have an addiction to spice blends.  I admit it.  

Phew.  I feel a lot better getting that off my chest! 

I have tons and tons of tiny tins, jars and bottles of the most amazing spice blends - Jamaican Jerk, Thai Green Curry, Park Hill Maple Pepper, Chili and Lime... you get the point.  As much as I love these delicious spices, they usually sit unused for quite a long time.  They are so taste-specific, that they usually only "belong" to one or two recipes in my repertoire.  After months years of collecting, I decided I needed a plan to use them up.  I mean, how else am I going to clear enough room in the spice cabinet to buy new spices?!

Today, while flipping through the latest Food Network magazine, inspiration struck!  Spiced nuts!  YES.   We always have a ridiculous amount of nuts in the house (and that is besides the people), so I had everything I needed on hand already. I used a spice blend called Park Hill Maple Pepper from the fabulous spice shop, Savory (you can order online if there isn't a location near you). It is a mixture of maple sugar, black pepper, coriander, tumeric, ginger, nutmeg, cumin, mustard and lots of other fantastic flavors. A perfect sweet and savory blend.

Unfortunately, batch #1 was a huge FAIL.  I used the temperature/time recommendations from the magazine and managed to horribly burn the batch.  Ugh.  Word of caution - do not stray far from the oven during cooking time.  If you start smelling the nuts getting toasty, remove them asap... there is no recovering burnt nuts.  Luckily, batch #2 was a delicious success.  I lowered the temperature and decreased the cooking time.  Perfection! 

Park Hill Maple Pepper Spiced Nuts
Yield: 2 cups

1 cup unsalted or reduced salt peanuts
3/4 cup cashews
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 Tbsp Park Hill Maple Pepper spice blend (or whatever spice blend that you happen to have sitting around in your spice cabinet)
Sprinkle of salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 400˚.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.

Mix nuts with vegetable oil and spices in a small bowl.  Stir until nuts are evenly coated.

Spread in an even layer on baking sheet.  Bake for 4-6 minutes, stirring once.  Pay close attention - the second they start getting golden brown, get them OUT of the oven!

Transfer to cooling rack lined with parchment paper or paper towels to cool.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffins

Every. Single. Blog. has a post about pumpkin something-or-other right now.  I almost feel silly posting another pumpkin recipe, but here's the thing - fall is ALL ABOUT pumpkin.  And I would be doing fall a disservice by omitting a perfectly good recipe, just to avoid the risk of seeming like a copy-cat.  

If you need something spectacularly fall-like with warm and happy spices, you'll love these cupcakes muffins.  Go on... make 'em.  And share them - your friends/family/neighbors will thank you.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cupcakes Muffins
(I get to call them muffins because they don't have frosting, right?)
This recipe was adapted from Lick the Bowl Good.
Yield: 24 muffins


- Cream Cheese Filling -
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

- Muffin -
1 pkg yellow cake mix
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 coconut or vegetable oil
1 can (15oz) pumpkin puree
1/4 cup water
4 eggs
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves

- Topping -
1/2 cup sugar
5 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces

For the filling: Combine the cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla and mix well, until blended and smooth.

Transfer the mixture to a piece of plastic wrap and shape into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Reinforce with foil and place in the freezer for at least 2-4 hours.

For the muffins: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients and mix until well combined.

For the topping: Combine sugar, flour and cinnamon in a small bowl.  Add the butter pieces and use a pastry blender or two forks to cut into the dry ingredients until the mixture is course and crumbly. Transfer to the refrigerator until ready to use.

Assembly: Fill each muffin well with approximately 2-3 Tbsp. of muffin mixture. 

Slice the log of cream cheese mixture into 24 equal pieces. Place one slice of cream cheese into each muffin well.

Divide the remaining batter among the muffin cups, covering the cream cheese completely. Sprinkle a small amount of the topping mixture over each muffin well.

Bake for 20-22 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before eating and sharing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Apple Bacon and Cheddar Frittata

I love me some eggs.  I eat an egg or two nearly every single day.  I like 'em scrambled, fried, hard-boiled... you name it.  The way I like my eggs best?  With bacon, of course!  This tasty and super-easy-to-pull-together frittata puts together two of my favorite breakfast foods with sharp cheddar and a surprising addition of apple.  Sounds a little strange, you say?  Ignore that little voice and try it anyways.  You'll thank me.
Apple, Bacon and Cheddar Frittata
This recipe was adapted slightly from The Whole Family Cookbook
Yield: 4 servings
2 egg whites
8 whole eggs
4 slices of bacon, cooked and roughly chopped
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
Generous pinch of ground thyme and ground sage
salt and ground pepper, to taste
1 large apple (or 2 small), Fuji or Gala
1 Tbsp butter

Put the rack in the upper third of the oven.  Preheat to 450

Whisk eggs until thoroughly combined. Add half of the grated cheese to the egg mixture and stir to combine. Add salt, pepper, thyme and sage.
Peel and core the apple.  Slice the apple into very thin pieces. In a medium cast-iron or ovenproof skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add egg mixture to the skillet. Sprinkle bacon evenly over the eggs. Arrange the apple slices over the bacon in a circular pattern (or whatever... this is my ocd talking), then sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Move skillet from the stovetop to the upper rack of the oven. Bake until frittata is firm in the center and the cheese is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Use a flexible spatula to loosen the frittata from the pan and slide onto a serving platter or cutting board. 

Allow it to cool for a few minutes before slicing into wedges. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Windowshop Wednesday

I absolutely LOVE this store.  Sadly, my budget strongly disagrees with me.  The last time I ended up with lots and lots of awesome things from Williams-Sonoma was just about 10 years ago... at my wedding.  We registered here, and are still eating off of the white dishes with simple blue trim. Classic, and we haven't broken a single one!  If I could have a part-time job, I would love to work here... just think of the discount!  But, let's be honest - I would never make a single dime.  I'd be paying them to work there.

Here are some of my current favorites from their website -

I need this. I actually need four of them. Yeah, you heard right.  I'm always responsible for four pies at Thanksgiving dinner - 2 chocolate and 2 pumpkin. Wouldn't they look perfect in these pie plates?

Heirloom Pumpkin Dipping Bowls. Love.
I'm a little obsessed with dipping bowls have have a ridiculous amount of them in many colors and sizes.
But, I don't have any festive fall ones!

I'm only 4 months away from making the finest baby-food known to... well, babies. Charlie will be utterly and completely impressed by the food I'll be whipping up from this book! Or, maybe he'll just spit it all out anyways. Worth a try.

I see awesome recipes rather frequently that I pass over, just because I don't have a thermometer. If I had one of these, I could fry stuff... and make caramel... and... well... other stuff, too.

Honestly, I could go on for days about the amazing good at WS. But, that might bore you... and then you would probably stop reading my blog.

Hope you enjoyed Windowshop Wednesday!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pineapple Not-so-Fried Rice

I'm feeling a tiny bit like a failure.  I made it about 3 whole seconds into my unprocessed week before messing it up.  Seriously.  I was all set to start on Sunday morning.  I made delicious eggs for breakfast, and then headed off to church.  Well, wouldn't you know... they were serving donuts.  Yeah. like totally processed donuts.  I didn't mean to eat it... I only had a tiny bite before remembering that I wasn't really supposed to be eating it.  You'll be proud to know that I actually stopped after that one bite!  

I was an unprocessed rockstar for about... 2 days.  I made Chris's favorite veggie tacos and tasty curry coconut soup.  I baked a double batch of granola bars, rice pudding and berry banana oatmeal.  I was doing so well.

But, here's the thing about trying to cut something so major out of your daily life. You have to have some super-human willpower to make it happen.  And I don't.  By Tuesday night I was obsessively thinking about the chocolate covered coconut popsicles in my freezer.  I swear, I could hear them begging to be eaten.  Let's just say, it was all downhill from there.

Is this what it is like to be on a "diet"? No wonder people hate dieting! As soon as I label a food "off-limits", that is all I can think of!  I think it is much more healthy to just try and eat the best that I can most of the time, and not freak out if I have to have a cookie (umm... or a bag of cookies) sometimes.  A much better way to live, I think.

The good news is that I'm still doing a pretty decent job of meal planning and trying new recipes.  Last night's dinner was Pineapple Not-So-Fried Rice.  This won't exactly be confused with the sodium and calorie laden stuff from your corner Chinese restaurant, but it is healthy and tasty - which is what I was going for! Use up whatever veggies you have stashed in your fridge and freezer.

Pineapple Not-so-Fried Rice
Original recipe from Blissful Bites, but was altered substantially by the random contents of my fridge.
Yield: 4 servings

1 cup brown jasmine rice
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1 cup frozen peas
1 can (14 oz.) pineapple chunks, juice reserved
3/4 cup carrot, diced
3/4 cup asparagus, cut on diagonal (I used Trader Joe's frozen)
1/2 cup green onions, diced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup frozen edamame
2 Tbsp tamari
drizzle of toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Cook rice in water or stock according to package directions. When rice is done, place in medium bowl with frozen peas.

Meanwhile, bring pineapple juice to a boil and simmer with remaining vegetables, pineapple chunks, sesame oil and tamari sauce until veggies are tender, about 5 minutes.

Toss with rice.  Garnish with cilantro and sesame seeds.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Unprocessed Menu Plan

I spent a good amount of time thinking about the changes I would need to make in order to avoid all processed foods during the next week (I'm starting October 2nd, in case you are keeping track).  Looks like I won't be able to finish the bag of Newman's Ginger Os that I just bought.  Bummer.  That Costco-sized bag of Pirates Booty?  Hands-off.  No refined sugars and flour?  Difficult, but I guess I can manage.  

Just so we're all on the same page, I'm following EatingRules's definition of "processed".  Unprocessed food is any food that could be made by a person with reasonable skill in a home kitchen with readily available, whole-food ingredients.  Basically, if I could make it at home, then it counts.  If it contains unpronounceable ingredients that I've never heard of, I'd best avoid it... at least this week.  

This one-week pledge really made me think about the things I eat, and I know there is room to improve.  I decided to put together a meal plan for the week, otherwise there is only a very small chance that I'll actually follow through on this.  If I have an actual plan, then I can shop for the right ingredients and avoid the it's-five-o'clock-and-I'm-starving-and-have-no-food-worth-eating panic that usually results in ordering take-out.

Here goes!

steel cut oatmeal with fresh berries and maple syrup, eggs, whole grain toast, baked oatmeal

leftovers, Quinoa and spinach salad, tuna salad

hummus/red pepper dip, veggies, fruit, kale chips, homemade granola bars, nuts, dried fruit, smoothies

Dinners -
Taco Salad with Red-pepper dressing (Blissful Bites)
Frijoles Rancheros (Simple Bites)

Coconut Curry Green Lentil Soup (Simple Bites)

Apple and Bacon Frittata (Simple Bites/Whole Family Cookbook)

Lentil Shepherd's Pie (Simple Bites)

Crockpot French Onion Soup (How Sweet it Is)

Pineapple fried rice (Blissful Bites)

Potato and Bean Enchilada Bake (All Recipes)

Time to make my shopping list - my grocery cart is going to be packed with all of this delicious food!