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!

Recipe:

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

Ingredients:
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

Instructions:

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!

Recipe:

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

Ingredients:
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

Instructions:

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.

Recipe:

cold peanut noodles
from the July 2014 Food Network Magazine

Ingredients:
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

Instructions:

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!?!? 

Recipe:

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

Ingredients:

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

Instructions:
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.


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Cornbread

On the night when I invited family over for the BBQ turkey meatballs and cheddar-corn quinoa, I also made this cornbread to go along with it.  I figured barbecue and cornbread seem like they go hand in hand!  I liked this recipe because it has a little cheese in it (and jalapeños, but I obviously left that out).   Also you make it in the food processor, which I think is kind of fun.  Yes, that is my idea of fun.


This is more a savory cornbread than some of the sweet ones I've seen, which is more my style anyway.  In fact, Elly from Elly Says Opa calls it "the best cornbread."  Having really only made one cornbread before (it had rosemary in it and was pretty sweet), I can't really say if this is truly "the best" or not, but I can tell you it's pretty good.  It's a little cheesy, with some bites of corn kernels, and a great soft, moist texture (I can't stand when cornbread is dry and crumbly).  Lately, both Daisy and Mark have been obsessed with cornbread (Mark eats it for breakfast, and Daisy refuses to take her cough medicine in anything other than cornbread), so having a good recipe in my repertoire is a must!
Recipe:

cornbread
from Elly Says Opa

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup shredded cheddar
1 jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed–or to your spice preference–and minced
Instructions:

1)  Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 8-inch square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl until combined; set aside.


2) In food processor or blender, process sugar, thawed corn kernels, and buttermilk until combined, about 5 seconds. Add eggs and process until well combined (corn lumps will remain), about 5 seconds longer.
3) Using rubber spatula, make well in center of dry ingredients; pour wet ingredients into well. Begin folding dry ingredients into wet, giving mixture only a few turns to barely combine; add melted butter and continue folding until dry ingredients are just moistened. Fold in cheddar and jalapenos.
4) Pour batter into prepared baking dish; smooth surface with rubber spatula. Bake until deep golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 25 to 35 minutesCool on wire rack 10 minutes; invert cornbread onto wire rack, then turn right side up and continue to cool until warm, about 10 minutes longer.

Friday, October 10, 2014

BBQ Turkey Meatballs with Cheddar-Corn Quinoa

I am a big fan of recipes that are basically a whole meal in one.  I've always been one who struggles with putting together a meal: main course, side dish, dessert.... I kind of lose steam halfway through and end up throwing a casserole on the table.  Recipes that give me a main and a side together make me excited.  So do recipes that combine stuff that my family likes (meat) with stuff that I like (quinoa).  And thus you have BBQ turkey meatballs over cheddar-corn quinoa.

I actually made this one weekend night and had quite a few people over for dinner: my mom and sisters, and many of the Cormiers.  I knew they'd be excited about the meatballs (plus Mark was grilling ribs), and I was ready to chow down on the quinoa.  Obviously I was more excited about that part - corn right off the cob, red onion, scallions and cilantro tossed with quinoa, cheddar cheese, and lightly dressed with apple cider vinegar, garlic and olive oil... mmmmm.  The quinoa was totally delicious - and that was despite my salt container's little metal spout popping off and dumping tons of salt into the quinoa as it cooked.  If everyone including me loved the super salty quinoa, imagine how good it would be minus the salt water?!  It's decadent but still light and healthy.

Then there are the meatballs.  I didn't try them, obviously, but besides the ground turkey, they at least have good stuff in there, like scallions, cilantro, paprika, brown sugar, and some barbecue sauce.  They get brushed with more sauce during and after baking, so they're extra flavorful.  Every single last meatball was eaten, with lots of compliments.

I feel like this meal is a good compromise: meat for the carnivores, quinoa for me.  And the real idea is that you serve the meatballs over the quinoa and get the best of both worlds.  Go for it, omnivores!

Recipe:

BBQ turkey meatballs with cheddar-corn quinoa

from Pink Parsley

Ingredients:

BBQ Turkey Meatballs:

1 pound ground turkey
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 scallion, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch cayenne
2 teaspoons brown sugar
5 tablespoons barbecue sauce, divided



Cheddar-Corn Quinoa
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 ears of corn, grilled, roasted, or boiled, kernels cut from cobs
1/2 medium red onion, sliced into thin rings and rinsed under cold water
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 scallion, minced
3/4 cup freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Instructions:


1) Make the meatballs first: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper, and spray lightly with cooking spray.


2) In a large bowl, combine the chicken, panko, scallion, cilantro, paprika, garlic, mustard, salt, cayenne, brown sugar,  and 2 tablespoons of the bbq sauce.  Lightly but thoroughly mix with your hands to incorporate all the ingredients.  Using an ice cream scoop or 1/4 cup measuring cup, form the mixture into balls, and arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.


3) Add the remaining 3 tablespoons of bbq sauce to a small bowl.  Bake the meatballs 11 to 12 minutes, then brush with the reserved bbq sauce.  Return to the oven and bake an additional 3 to 4 minutes, or until they are cooked through (160 degrees in the center).


4) Meanwhile, begin to make the quinoa: Bring the quinoa, broth, and a big pinch of salt to a boil in medium saucepan.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked through.

5) Remove the quinoa from heat, and add to a medium mixing bowl.  Stir in the corn, onion, cilantro, scallion, and cheese.

6) In small bowl, whisk together the oil, pepper flakes, garlic, and vinegar.  Pour over the quinoa and gently mix to combine.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.

7) Serve the meatballs over the quinoa.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Southwestern Farro Salad

I go through blogger phases.  When I discover someone that I like and trust, I binge on their recipes for a while.  You know it's true.  How many times have I talked about A Couple Cooks, Annie's Eats or The Pioneer Woman?  Well, get ready for a mini binge on Elly Says Opa.

 Elly is a great blogger and cook with a Greek heritage, so lots of her recipes are Greek (like that weirdly delicious semolina  cake), but there are also plenty of other things thrown in there, as you are about to see.  I've made a few of her recipes throughout the past few years, but lately she's just been reading my mind and posting recipes that are perfect for me.

For example, she must have realized that, since my lovely broccoli and cheese farro casserole, I've been dying to try farro again, so she came up with this southwestern farro salad.  She even talked about how it was a great thing to bring to work, and it happened to be right when school started up again and needed to start thinking about work lunches.  She also says it's full of protein from the farro and beans, without adding any meat; you know I love that.  Plus, and most importantly - this salad is delicious.

First of all, any time a recipe calls for pepitas, I get exited; those little crunchy gems are among my favorite seeds!  Plus, they get toasted for a little while so they're extra crunchy (just don't add them into your salad too early if you're trying to make it ahead of time; they do lose their crunchiness!) Then there is corn, black beans, and tomatoes - you've got yourself a little southwestern vegetable flair going there.  The dressing is a mix of apple cider vinegar, light sour cream, and the juice of a lime.  The sour cream makes the dressing creamy (but still healthy!) and the lime juice is just tart enough to make all the other flavors pop.  Add some cilantro and monterrey jack cheese (oh yeah!) into the farro-y mix, and voila: a wonderful salad that is healthy but filling, good as a side or as a main dish.  Mark and I were a little bit obsessed with this salad.  We may or may not have eaten it for days at work, scraping the leftover container clean quicker than we expected.  If you're not sure about farro, this is the recipe to win you over.

Recipe:

southwestern farro salad
from Elly Says Opa

Ingredients:
1 cup dry farro
1 teaspoon canola oil
2 tablespoons pepitas
1 15-ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup corn
1 medium tomato, cored, seeded and diced, or 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
2 ounces monterrey jack, pepper jack, or cheddar cheese
handful of chopped cilantro
for dressing:
1 small jalapeño, finely minced (I skipped this)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons light sour cream
1 tablespoons canola or olive oil

Instructions:

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the farro.  Cook for 15 - 20 minutes (it should still have some chew to it).  Drain the farro, return it to the empty pot, and cover with a lid.  Allow to steam for 10 minutes.  Then place in a large bowl so it can start to cool.

2) Meanwhile, heat the canola oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add the pepitas and cook 1 - 2 minutes or until golden.  Be careful - if your oil is too hot, they have a tendency to pop right out of the pan.  Set aside.

3)  To make the dressing, whisk together the jalapeño, vinegar, lime juice, and sour cream.  Then slowly add the oil, while continuing to whisk.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4) To the bowl with the farro, add the pepitas, black beans, corn, tomatoes, cheese, cilantro, and a little salt and pepper.  Pour the dressing over the farro mixture ,stirring lightly to combine all the ingredients and distribute the dressing evenly.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.