Monday, October 27, 2014

Vegan Crockpot Quinoa and Black Bean Chili

I've been on a slow cooker binge lately.  In fact, on Saturday, I used it twice.  In one day.  It helps that I am in love with my Cuisenart slow cooker (it's so big!  And you can program it to stop cooking after a certain amount of time and just keep your food warm!).  In fact, this chili was the first thing I made in my shiny new crockpot, which I got for my bridal shower back in June.  And I will be making it again.  Not only am I excited about my slow cooker; I am excited about this chili!!!!  4 exclamation points excited!  (I sound like an episode of Seinfeld).

Let's talk about the vegetables, first.  Black beans, red and green bell peppers, grated carrot, onion, garlic and corn.  This is no meat and tomato chili, my friends.  Lots of delicious vegetables in there, not to mention the flavor of chili powder, cayenne pepper, cumin and oregano.  And then there's the quinoa.  You throw it in raw, and yet somehow it still cooks perfectly into little nutty bites of protein. It was a genius way to fix the fact that somehow I had three bags of quinoa in the pantry.  It helps to give the chili a little more texture, too.

I was really excited about this chili, in case you can't tell.  It's so easy: just throw everything in there and turn the slow cooker on.  You're eating chili in no time.  Mark was a big fan of this chili; as he usually does with chili, his favorite way to eat it is to dip into it with tortilla chips.  Whether you eat it out of a bowl (or a Tupperware - this reheats wonderfully) or off a chip, just promise me you will give this chili a shot.  You don't have to love quinoa, you just have to love flavorful, delicious chili!

One note: this recipe is vegan, so it calls for vegan toppings like a sour cream made of cashews (I'm not going to post the recipe for that, but if you are interested, click the link to the original recipe!).  You can do that if you so choose, but feel free to stir in real sour cream and cheddar cheese!  I actually found that the chili didn't need any toppings, but top to your heart's desire.


vegan crockpot quinoa and black bean chili
from Jessica in the Kitchen
serves 4 - 5

2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
15-ounce can black beans
1/2 container 28-ounce diced tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 shredded carrot
1/2 onion, chopped
2 gloves garlic
1/2 small chili pepper
2 teaspoons chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
1/2 cup corn kernels
optional toppings:
chopped avocado
chopped green onions
shredded carrot
cheddar cheese and sour cream


1) Add the broth, quinoa, black beans and tomatoes to the slow cooker.  Stir to combine.

2) Next, add the peppers, carrot, onion and garlic, and stir.  Then add the rest of the seasonings and stir a few times to combine.

3) Set the slow cooker to high for 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or on low for 5 - 6 hours.  For high, monitor the last 30 minutes, and for low, monitor the last hour.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Roasted Summer Vegetable and Rice Casserole

I am sorry to be posting a totally delicious recipe that calls for summer vegetables at the end of October.  I have a bit of a backlog of recipes that I am working on catching up on.  And back when I made this in early September, you could still find fresh, sweet corn and ripe tomatoes at the farmer's market or grocery store, and basil was still growing in Heidi and Jeff's garden.  Now?  We are just a few days away from the worst stage of fall: when all the leaves are down and the trees are bare and everything is brown and gray and ugly.  You certainly aren't going to find delicious summer vegetables waiting to be devoured.  Hmph.

Here's the good news, though: when you roast a vegetable, even if it is the not-so-wonderful non-summer variety, you make it the best that it can be.  The way I see it, most summer vegetables are best eaten raw or prepared simply: raw salted tomato slices, or boiled corn on the cob with butter and salt.  For the rest of the year, most veggies need a little help to make them fabulous, and roasting is quite often the best way to do that.  It makes everything sweet and complex and glorious.

Now let's talk about the rest of the casserole: it's cheesy and tastes indulgent, but it isn't, really.  The secret ingredient is cottage cheese, which I promise you can't even taste or find in there if you aren't a fan.  It's not such a heavy casserole as some cheese and rice ones, and I could even go so far as to say it is healthy (brown rice, only 2/3 cup Romano cheese, lots of flavor from things like garlic and dijon mustard).  You can add shredded chicken - I obviously did not - but I am sure the carnivores would like that.  Mark and I loved it just the way it was - he had thirds, if I am remembering correctly.  There weren't many leftovers for the work week, but it does reheat well.

So go ahead, go buy mediocre zucchini and tomatoes.  Buy frozen corn!  Roasting them will make everything okay.  And adding cheese and rice really makes everything okay, or better than okay, for that matter.


roasted summer vegetable and rice casserole
from Elly Says Opa

2 medium zucchini, sliced into half-moons
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cups cooked brown rice
2 cups cooked and shredded chicken (optional)
2/3 cup corn (cut from 1 - 2 ears or frozen)
2/3 cup Romano cheese, divided
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil, divided
3 eggs
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 cup cottage cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
a little milk or chicken broth (optional)


1) Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.  Spray a 2 1/2 quart baking dish with cooking oil.

2) On one rimmed baking dish, toss together the zucchini and red bell pepper with 1 tablespoon of oil and salt and pepper to taste.  On a second sheet, toss together the tomatoes, remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil, and salt and pepper.  Roast the zucchini/ peppers for about 20 - 25 minutes and the tomatoes for about 15 minuets.  Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

3) Allow the vegetables to cool for a little bit, and then dice the pepper stripes into bite-sized pieces, and place all the vegetables in a large mixing bowl.  To the bowl, add the rice, chicken, corn, and 2 tablespoons of the basil.

4) In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, Dijon, cottage cheese, garlic, half the Romano, and salt and pepper.  Pour the mixture oven the rice and vegetables, stirring to combine.  If you think it looks a little too dry, you can add a little broth or milk (it should not be runny).  Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and cover with a  lid or foil.  Bake for 15 minutes, remove the foil, and bake for an additional 15 minutes until cheese is golden brown.  Rest for 10 minutes before serving, and top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of basil.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Peaches and Cream Streusel Bread

I love the town that I live in.  My house is amazing.  My family is here.  The schools are great.  And one of my - and Mark's - favorite parts about Westminster is the farmer's market!  For a pretty small town, we have a really great farmer's market all summer.  Sadly, it ends for the season tomorrow, but Mark and I try to go every single Friday.  We load up on fresh fruit and vegetables grown around here, and have been known to buy breads, dog treats, even ice cream made from milk and cream from cows here in town!  How cool is that?  We think it's pretty awesome. It was great to have a constant supply of tomatoes all summer without having a garden.  And don't get me started on my new addiction to ground cherries.  Have you ever tried one?  Find some, stat!

Anyway, last month the market was full of peaches.  And I don't just mean any peaches - I mean the biggest peaches I've ever seen.  Mark obviously got too excited about them and bought the biggest ones he could fit in a bag.  I realized once we got them home and started eating them that perhaps I don't love peaches as much as I thought.  I love the inside, but that skin... ugh.  So itchy and scratchy. I started peeling them to eat, covering my whole kitchen with peach juice.  Then, as I had expected, we started losing the race against time.  We had too many peaches and not enough people eating peaches!  I knew I should probably find a way to bake with the giants we had left before they rotted.  So, lo and behold the peaches and cream streusel bread.

First of all, peaches, cream, streusel, bread.  What's not to like there?  Nothing, that's what.  Now let me tell you a little more.  The topping is crunchy and sweet and even spiced with some cardamom.  There are sliced peaches laid across the top, and lots of diced peaches inside the bread, along with sour cream to keep it moist for days, and cinnamon to spice it up a little.  Yes please.

Unfortunately,  I didn't even get a bite of this bread.  I made it for Mark to take to his classroom staff for one of their Tuesday morning meetings.  I had planned on stealing a piece by the time I had a free second to visit his room, and when I got there, every last crumb had been devoured.  It got rave reviews from his staff, so I will have to take their word for it. But maybe if you try this out, you can save me a bite :)


peaches and cream streusel bread

for streusel topping:
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter diced
for bread:
2/3 cup sour cream
6 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup peeled and diced fresh peaches
1/4 cup peeled and sliced fresh peaches


1) Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease the bottom and sides of an 8-by-4-inch loaf pan.

2) In a small bowl, combine rolled oat, brown sugar, cardamom, and cinnamon.  Cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter or fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Place bowl in fridge while you prepare bread.

3) In a large bowl, whisk sour cream, brown sugar, oil, vanilla, and egg until smooth.  In a separate large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.  Add sour cream mixture to flour mixture; stir until just combined.  Fold in diced peaches.

4) Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.  Top with sliced peaches and streusel.  Bake 50 minutes to 1 hour until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Tent loaf with foil halfway through baking if peaches are drying out too much or top is browning too quickly.

5) Cool bread 10 minutes in pan, then carefully remove from pan and transfer to cooling rack to cool completely.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Granola Bites

These dark chocolate peanut butter granola bites were glorious and they came at such a perfect time.  Annie's Eats posted them at the end of August and suggested that they would be good to put into lunch boxes.  She was right.  They were a great back-to-school idea.  Now that we have been back to school for two (really long) months, however, don't think that it's too late to try these little guys out.  They may be excellent to bring with you to work or school, but they were also a pretty great on-the-go breakfast (yes, you can eat these for breakfast, because even though they have chocolate and peanut butter, they also have roasted almonds and oats!  Totally acceptable breakfast food).  And, let's be honest: they were good to eat at any time of day.  Which I did.  Until they were gone.

A few notes about the ingredients: you should toast your almonds if they're raw, and you can also toast your coconut if you want them to be more coconutty.  Lots of toasting went on here.  It was all worth it for sweet, salty, crunchy, soft granola bites!


dark chocolate peanut butter granola bites
from Annie's Eats
yields about 24 - 30 granola bites

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup shredded coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
1 cup roasted almonds
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt


1) Place the oats in the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until ground into small pieces.  Add in the coconut and almonds and continue to pulse until finely ground.  Transfer to a medium mixing bowl.

2) In a medium saucepan, combine the peanut butter, honey, coconut oil, cocoa powder, and chocolate chips.  Heat over medium heat until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate chips are completely melted.  Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and salt.  Pour the mixture into the bowl with the oat mixture and stir together until well incorporated.

3) Scoop the mixture into 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoon dollops onto a baking sheet.  Let sit for a few minutes until slightly more firm and then roll into balls.  Once balls are formed, chill in the refrigerator until firmly set, about 1 - 2 hours.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Iced Oatmeal Cookies

I am not a big cookie eater.  I really don't have much of a sweet tooth, to be honest.  So, you know when I like a cookie, it must be pretty special.  I decided to make these iced oatmeal cookies only because of how pretty they are.  They almost look lacy with their bumpy tops and the shiny white glaze.  I figured they would be pretty and most likely delicious and my family would enjoy them.  I didn't foresee myself stuffed two in my own lunch box every morning, but that's exactly what I did!

The cookies themselves are spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg; they are warm and sweet and spicy.  You also get the flavor of the oats, without the big chewy bites of them, because they are ground in a food processor (just like my mom's favorites, Mrs. Field's chocolate chip cookies).  The glaze is a simple mix of confectionary sugar, milk and vanilla, and the trip is to dunk the tops of the cookies into the glaze and pull them out quickly.  Unless you're a total frosting addict (aka Mom!), you don't want the glaze to fill all the little nooks and crannies; you just want to cover the majority of the top with some cookie still peeking through.  Then again, my mom helped to glaze them and hers were pretty uniformly white :)

Which one do you think is my mother's? :)
These would be great cookies around the holidays, which it's crazy to say are actually going to coming upon us quickly.  The month of September could not have crawled by any slower, but October is moving pretty quickly.  Put them on your baking list!


iced oatmeal cookies
from Annie's Eats
yields about 18 - 22 cookies

for the dough:
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
for the icing:
1 1/2 cups confectionary sugar
2 tablespoons milk, plus more as needed
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract


1) Preheat the ven to 350 degrees.  Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  Add the oats to the bowl of a food processor ad pulse until just coarsely ground, about 10 brief pulses.  In a medium bowl, combine the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Whisk to blend.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the butter and sugars.  Beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Blend in the egg and vanilla.  With the mixer on low speed, mix in the dry ingredients until just incorporated.

2) Scoop the dough into 1 1/2 tablespoon portions onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them at least 2 inches apart.  Alternately, you can make mini cookies using 1 teaspoon scoop portions.  Bake, rotating halfway through the baking time, just until set and light golden, about 10 minutes total.  Mini cookies will need a few minutes less.  Let cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.

3) To make the icing, combine the confectionary sugar, milk and vanilla.  Whisk to blend until smooth, adjusting the consistency as needed with additional milk or sugar so that you end up with a fairly thick glaze.  One cookie at a time, hold carefully by the edges and dip the top side of each cookie into the glaze, just enough to cover most of the top but not so much that it fills all the nooks and crannies.  Return to the cooling rack and let sit until the glaze is fully set.  Store in an airtight container.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cold Peanut Noodles

Yesterday at work we had the magazine drive.  Unless you're a teacher, you cannot even imagine what this is like.  Here's a hint: Picture 500 kids screaming at the tops of their little lungs in the gym because there's a magazine drive woman standing in front of them with a 15-foot long plush snake, a giant teddy bear, and blow-up shoes.  She's wearing a light-up lanyard and those damn weepulls (AKA puffballs with eyes that for some reason the kids are dying to own).  She is bribing them to sell magazines and the ultimate prize is a limousine lunch at McDonald's.  Are you starting to get an idea of how loud the magazine drive is?  Now, add in the game that the magazine drive lady plays at the end of the assembly, where 67% of the kids try to cheat, and the fact that the first prizes get delivered the very next morning if they disclose 8 addresses of loved ones that we can send catalogs to.  Yeah, you're getting a good idea of it now.  And of course, it wouldn't be complete if one of my kids didn't scream cry by the end of it.

Fast forward to today, when my kids passed in their magazine drive envelopes before they passed in their homework.  Then picture my horror when, while the kids were at specials, the magazine drive coordinators dropped off the giant teddy bear in my classroom.  In fact, he was propped up in my seat at my desks when I returned from a meeting.   We won the honor of his presence for the day for having the most magazine drive postcards filled out.  Oh joy.  My aide, Barbara, and I immediately shoved him on top of the cabinets (with a yard stick) to try to hide him from our attention-lacking students (it worked... no one pointed him out till the last class).  I just love this picture.

Anyway, the point of all the magazine drive whining is that, at this point in time, I have a love-hate relationship with magazines.  This week, I hate them all because of the magazine drive toys which I know I will be confiscating in the very near future.  But then again, I kind of miss reading my mom's magazines, which I often did when I still lived at home.  I love to flip through cooking magazines and take pictures on my phone of the recipes I want to try.  I don't get any subscriptions myself, except for my beloved Food Network Magazine, which Nick got me one year for Christmas and unbeknownst to him, it automatically renews every year and charges his credit card (shhhhh!)  

One cool aspect of the magazine is there's always a miniature magazine each month featuring 50 recipes.  Sometimes it's 50 flavored popcorns, or 50 quick breads, or 50 pasta dishes.  This summer, it was 50 picnic salads.  I actually made a couple of them; I made a caponata pasta salad, but was disappointed in it due to my inability to find fresh fennel for it.  Then I made this cold peanut noodle salad, and it was pretty awesome.  I had my mom over for dinner and the two of us loved it.  Then Mark and I happily ate it for lunch at work during the week.

The peanut sauce was the best part of this dish; it's smooth and flavorful (besides peanut butter, there's soy sauce and rice vinegar and sesame oil and fresh ginger! Mmmmm).  It's also a little spicy (the recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of Sriracha.  No thanks, I'd like to keep my tastebuds; I used maybe 1/4 teaspoon!).  Basically if you need a good go-to peanut sauce, make this one.  Then add to it the red pepper, cucumber, and cilantro?  Yes please.  Not to mention the noodles.  Except here is my confession: the recipe calls for Chinese egg noodles.  I confess to having no idea what Chinese egg noodles are.  I used the ones you'd serve with beef stroganoff, and I am highly certain that those aren't Chinese.  I scoured the Asian section trying to find a clue and finally gave up.  Anyone want to steer me in the right direction?

So.  Magazines.  This week (and until the drive ends October 29) I will hate them.  But I have to thank them for this tasty, quick and easy recipe.


cold peanut noodles
from the July 2014 Food Network Magazine

1 pound Chinese egg noodles
1/2 cup peanut butter
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons Sriracha (or less!)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
salt and pepper to taste


1) Cook pasta; drain and rinse.

2) Whisk peanut butter, soy sauce, Sriracha, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and ginger.  Toss with noodles.

3) Mix in bell pepper, cucumber and cilantro.  Season with salt and pepper.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

BBQ-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Corn Risotto

Wow, what a weekend.  Thank god it was a long one, because even so, it was exhausting.  We had my mom's surprise 60th birthday party, which was awesome and fun, but also my first big (50 people!) party here in the new house (is it still new?).  There was a lot of cooking and cleaning to be done.  Then, Daisy was sick all weekend.  As in, coughing/hacking/honking all day and all night.  So we didn't sleep... at all, really.  Don't worry - she's okay and taking lots of new meds for bronchitis and a tick-borne disease called anaplasma.  But still: I'm so tired I couldn't even get my contacts to stick to my sleepy eyeballs this morning.  

And yet, through my heavy, droopy eyelids, I felt the need to post about this BBQ-rubbed pork tenderloin with corn risotto before hitting the sheets embarrassingly early.  To be honest, I have been excited to get to this recipe in my rather huge backlog of meals to share.  You might be surprised that I am pumped to share something as un-vegetarian as a pork tenderloin, but nevertheless, I am.  No, I haven't tried the pork myself.  But my whole family has (any time I make meat, I invite the whole crew over).  And everyone absolutely loves it.  In fact, my happy little hubby said this was "the best meat" I ever made.  He was so happy with it that the fact that I had to don rubber gloves in order to rub spices into a raw hunk of meat didn't seem so bad anymore.  Nick said it's his favorite meal that I make.  It's not surprising that, with these glowing reviews, this is a meal I have made twice.  As far as meat goes, this isn't too bad; there's no cutting, minimal touching (just rubbing the homemade spice rub into it and then searing it).  Most of the work is done for you when you toss it in the oven to bake.  It comes out juicy and spicy and delicious (so say the carnivores).

But let's talk about the corn risotto.  Now.  This is the best part of the meal by far (although then again I may be biased.... but my mom and Kenzie agree!!!)  First of all, I was so nervous to try risotto  I don't know why I thought it was so hard - do you have that thought in your head, too?  Who told us this?  It's actually quite simple.  No, it's not hands-off: you do have to stand there stirring for about a half hour.  But if you can handle that (which you can), you can make risotto.  It's not difficult at all.  Basically you just have to add one ladle-full of broth to the pot of rice, stir it until it has been mostly absorbed, and then add more until it's done.  It only takes about 30 minutes - and guess how long the pork tenderloin bakes (well, 25 minutes plus 10 for resting!? )  Is that perfect timing or what?  Plus, this risotto has corn in it.  Fresh corn, cut from the cob!  Then again, corn season is kind of over, so you might have to use frozen, and no, it won't be as wondrous but it will be okay.  And then there is Romano cheese, and dry white wine, and shallots.  So it's just the most amazingly flavored and textured risotto you will ever try.

BBQ-rubbed pork tenderloin that is moist and spicy.  Corn risotto that has sweet corn, dry wine and mild shallots.  Plus it's all gluten-free.  Why aren't you rushing to the grocery store right now to buy what you need for this meal!?!? 


BBQ-rubbed pork tenderloin with corn risotto
from Elly Says Opa


Pork tenderloin:
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon oregano
1 tablespoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 pork tenderloin (about 1 1/4 pounds)
2 teaspoons neutral oil
corn risotto:
1 quart chicken stock or broth
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large shallot, diced
3/4 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine

3 cobs of corn
1/4 cup Romano cheese

1) Make pork tenderloin: Preheat the oven to 425.
2) In a small bowl, combine everything except the pork tenderloin. Rub the mixture all over the pork tenderloin, making sure to coat it completely.
3) Heat a large oven-proof skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat and add the oil. Add the tenderloin and sear on all sides, about 2-3 minutes per side. Place the pan in the oven and continue to cook for about 15-20 extra minutes, until pork registers 135-140. Place on cutting board and tent with aluminum foil; rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
4) Meanwhile, make the risotto.  Cut the corn off the cobs. Reserve a cob (I cut it in half), and place in a saucepan along with the broth. Heat the broth to a low simmer.
5) In a heavy-bottomed skillet or saucepan, heat the butter and oil over medium heat until melted together. Stir in corn and shallot. Saute until corn is lightly golden and shallot is tender. Add the rice, and stir several times, toasting it until it becomes opaque (about 2 minutes).
6) Add the wine and continue stirring until it has nearly evaporated. Add one ladle-full of the broth. Stir almost constantly until nearly all of the broth has been absorbed. Continue doing this with the broth, only adding more after the previous addition has been absorbed.  This will take about 20-25 minutes. Test a kernel of rice to make sure it is mostly tender, but still has a bit of a bite in the center.  You may not use all the broth, but at this point I like adding maybe half a ladle-full before removing it from the heat. Risotto should be “loose” and just a little runny.
7) Off the heat, stir in the cheese, Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.