Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Veggie Rice Pilaf

My husband requested that we give Meatless Mondays another try.  Sure!  This was a deliciously fragrant way to kick start our weekly (intentional) meatless meal.  Our local grocery store sells a can of seasoned saag (spinach) and blocks of paneer (cheese), so I combined those for a side of Saag Paneer as our pilaf compliment - yummy!

adapted from a recipe found in Vegetarian Times

3 Tbsp canola oil
1 small to medium potato, peeled and diced
1 small to medium sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
1 1/2 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 cups white basmati or jasmine rice
3 cups water
1 tsp. chicken or vegetable bouillon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup raisins (my gut was to add these in at the end, but for whatever reason I didn't.  I should have.)
1 1/2 tsp. Garam Masala
1 1/2 Tbsp. melted butter

Heat large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 2 Tbsp oil and potatoes.  Cook 2 minutes.  Add bell pepper, and sauté 6 minutes, or until diced potato is golden.  Transfer to bowl, and set aside.

Add remaining 1 Tbsp oil, garlic, cumin, turmeric, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves to wok or skillet.  Sauté 30 seconds.  Add broccoli, cauliflower, and corn, and sauté 30 seconds.  Add rice, water, salt, and bouillon.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, or until liquid has been absorbed.

Remove from heat, and let stand 2 minutes, then fluff with fork.  Stir in almonds, raisins, and potato mixture.  Add salt if needed.  Cover to keep warm.  Mix Garam Masala with melted butter.  Drizzle over pilaf just before serving.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

My husband suggested our family make cookies together after dinner.  I had been wanting an excuse to try out this recipe, so we went for it.  Oh.  My.  Word.  These cookies are AMAZING.  I think I like them even better than my favorite cookies.  I probably need to do some more tasting before I make a final decision.  I'll go bake a batch now.  You should, too.  

11/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter at room temperature
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon honey
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt or sour cream
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips (you can use mini chocolate chips)

In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

With an electric mixer, mix the softened butter and peanut butter together until thoroughly blended. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Next beat in the egg, honey, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined. Gently stir in the chocolate chips. Chill dough in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes-1 hour, or place in freezer for 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Once ready to bake, roll dough into 1-inch balls and place onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 9-12 minutes (depends on size of your cookie) or until cookies begin to turn a tiny golden brown and crisp up around the edges. Do not overbake! Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for 3-5 minutes and sprinkle cookies generously with sea salt. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely or just inhale them like I do. Repeat with remaining dough.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Chickpea and Apricot Stew

My 10-month-old and I really enjoyed this!  The rest of the family wasn't that impressed.  So it won't be a keeper for the Payne kitchen, but I would still recommend it.  

19 oz (540ml) can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
28 oz can crushed tomatoes or 3 1/2 cups homemade tomato sauce
1 cup apple juice
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup/150g medium diced turnip
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (about 12)
zest of 1 large lemon (I only used half a lemon and there was plenty of lemon flavor)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a slow-cooker and stir to combine.
Cover and cook on low setting for 6 hours, or on high for four hours.
Check turnip for tenderness and taste stew for seasoning. Adjust salt if necessary and serve.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

I had some pumpkin puree in the freezer needing attention.  These cookies were a good use!  My husband said they tasted like a muffin disguised as a cookie.  You could try adding raisins or white chocolate chips to change it up, too.

adapted from this recipe

1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup cold butter
1 egg, beaten
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.  Cut in butter and mix until mixture is crumbly.  Stir in egg, pumpkin, oats, and nuts.  Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. 

Bake in 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until done.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Butternut Tortilla Soup

This soup was unlike any I'd tasted before.  We really liked it!  The toasted tortillas blended with the squash and jalapeño to create a terrific flavor.  And the varying textures kept each bite interesting.  A dollop of sour cream or some crumbled cotija would be a great addition.  But even without it, my husband and I both agreed after each bite that it was delicious!

Adapted from a recipe I copied from one of my mom's cookbooks

1 medium-sized butternut squash; peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch chunks
1 cup corn kernels
1 cup onion, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, cut into fourths
1 jalapeño, seeded and de-stemmed
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp cumin
6 cups chicken broth
1 pound ground turkey
6 oz. spinach, chopped
1 15 oz. can white hominy, drained
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the butternut squash.  Use whatever means you want; sauté, steam, or roast.  The goal is for the chunks to be cooked, but not too soft.  I steamed mine until they were tender when pierced with a fork - about ten minutes.  Once cooked, set aside.

While squash is cooking, put the corn, onion, garlic, and jalapeño in a food processor or blender and pulse until finely chopped.

Heat oil over medium heat in a large stock pot.  Add tortillas and sauté until starting to brown and slightly crisp.  Stir in the corn mixture, tomato, tomato paste and cumin and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Stir in the broth and 1 1/2 cups squash and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 10 minutes and then blend the soup using an immersion blender or in batches in a food processor or blender.

Return soup to stock pot and bring back to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  While soup is simmering, brown turkey over medium-high heat, breaking into chunks.  Once fully cooked, add to soup.

Stir in spinach, hominy, and remaining squash.  Cook 3-5 more minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.  Makes about 12 cups.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Surprise Inside {birthday cakes}

My oldest two gingersnaps have birthdays within a couple weeks of each other.  My daughter asked for her cake to be pink and purple and my son wanted a superhero birthday cake.  I love baking my kids special birthday cakes.  And at this age, I feel far less pressure to make it actually taste good, so I put all my focus on what it looks like for them.  Sugar just tastes like sugar when you're three years old, right?!

I decided to use the surprise affect on the cakes this year.  My daughter was thrilled with the bright pink "3" on the top of her cake, but was even more excited when we cut into the cake, revealing the three layers and shades of pink and purple.  It was as easy as two white cake mixes, two canisters of white frosting, and food coloring.  Done.  

For my son's cake, I went with one of the few ideas I found online that didn't use fondant.  His name begins with an R, hence the "super R' on top.  If I were to do it again, I would squeeze in more M&Ms.  The less frosting that shows through underneath the better.  

Chocolate frosting on the outside.  M&Ms on top.  Whoppers bordering the bottom. 

My son was so excited about the primary color surprise when we cut into the cake.  Again - white cake mix, white icing, and food coloring.  Easy peesy, but the kids thought it was great!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Honey Garlic Chicken

This was a total home run!  We all loved it.  And with my really good rice pot, everything, including the brown rice, was literally ready to eat when we walked in the door from swimming lessons.  I used half the amount of soy sauce because that's all I had and the sauce/gravy tasted great, so I'm guessing it doesn't really need the full half-cup.

1 1/2 to 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs (4 or one thigh per family member)
3 garlic cloves, smashed and chopped
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup  soy sauce (or less)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/3 cup honey

Use a 4-quart slow cooker (if using a 6-quart, this will cook faster. Check after 3 hours on high, 5 hours on low).
Put the chicken into your cooker. In a small bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, then pour evenly over the top.
Cook on low for 6 hours or high for 3-4.
Serve with basmati rice and steamed or roasted vegetables.
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