Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Zoodles Greek Salad

Okay, folks.  This is very exciting.  I have tried and fallen in love with zoodles.  Yes, zoodles.  In case you haven't been following the latest vegetable craze, zoodles are zucchini "noodles" made with something called a spiralizer.  You know me: it can't be surprising to hear that I registered for a spiralizer because I was dying to turn zucchini into noodles.  It's also not surprising that no one got it for me!  So don't worry: I returned 4 of my 5 coffee makers and got plenty of great stuff in return.  One thing I had to get: my $20 vegetable spiralizer.  It sort of looks like a male torture device, or two funnels put together with sharp blades inside.  If you put the zucchini in one end and twist, it makes spaghetti-like strips.  The other end makes fettucini-like strips.  I've only experienced with zucchini, but apparently lots of other vegetables can be spiralized too (I can see carrots being awesome!).  Once you get the zoodles, you can briefly cook them and eat them in place of pasta, or you can eat them raw, like we did in this salad.

I love Greek salad anyway - the feta, the lemon, the fresh oregano, the tomatoes, not to mention those beloved little kalamata olives.  But then serve it over zoodles, and you've really gotten me excited.  There's nothing not to like.  You feel like you're eating a cold pasta dish with Mediterranean flavors!  The zoodles really do make you think you are eating a slightly crunchy pasta, and the salad dressing is so bright and delicious .   And can we talk about how easy this is to make?  3 steps.  Maybe 10 minutes.  That's it.

I was pretty pumped when I tried this, and couldn't wait to make it for Maggie because she is gluten-free.  She loved it so much that a week or so later, she brought me zucchinis and lemons and begged me to make it for her again!  So my (many) gluten-free friends out there: try out some zoodles!  Or just come over and I'll try them out for you.  I definitely want to try a hot dish with zoodles; my mom says she saw people cook them on the Today show and no one could tell that it wasn't actually pasta.  Have you tried zoodles?  What's your favorite way to eat them?

Recipe:

zoodles Greek salad
from Cupcakes and Kale Chips
serves 4 - 6

Ingredients:
juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
kosher salt and pepper
2 medium zucchini, peeled if desired
1 cup grape of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
2 ounces crumbled feta cheese

Instructions:

1) In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

2) Using a vegetable spiral cutter, cut the zucchini into zucchini noodles.

3) In a large bowl, gently toss together the zucchini noodles, tomatoes, olives, feta, and dressing until combined and evenly coated.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cinnamon Roll Cookies

In case you thought that I only baked dog treats for the Town Benefit, surprise!!!  I made some human food too.  And they are pretty darn delicious, too, if I may say so myself.

Behold: the cinnamon roll that is actually a cookie.  Yes, these are cinnamon roll cookies.  The "bread" part is really sugar cookie, filled and rolled around cinnamon and sugar.  The recipe calls for a glaze, but I thought these were sweet enough as it was.

 I was pretty excited to go see them at the benefit and see how they were selling, and they were selling like hotcakes.  And I don't just mean that my mom was buying them... which she was!  To be honest, they were pretty, and when it comes to a bake sale or something like that, looks are 90% of it!  Luckily I am sure that no one felt screwed over buying my $2 bags of cinnamon roll cookies, because the taste was great too!

Recipe:

cinnamon roll cookies
from Baked Perfection

Ingredients:
sugar cookie ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) softened butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 almond extract
2 eggs
filling and icing:
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
3/4 powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk

Instructions:
1) Make the sugar cookie dough: mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.  In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs one at at imd, then stir in the vanilla.  Slowly beat in the flour mixture until fully absorbed.  Separate dough into two disks.  Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours of overnight.

2) Divide the dough into 2 halves.  On a floured surface, roll each half of the dough to about 1/4-inch thickness.  Brush with melted butter.  In a small bowl, mix together sugar and cinnamon.  Sprinkle this mixture evenly over dough.  Begin to roll up dough, starting at the long side.  Wrap in plastic wrap and put dough in freezer for about 20 - 30 minutes (until firm but not hard).

3) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Take dough out of freezer and begin cutting into 3/4 inch slices.  Place slices about 2 inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake 10 - 12 minutes or until edges are lightly golden golden brown.

4) Cool for 2 minutes on the cookie sheet, them remove to cooling rack.  Cool completely.

5) In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar and milk until smooth.  Drizzle icing over cooled cookies, making sure you have paper underneath racks to catch excess icing.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ernie's Treats: Peanut Butter and Bacon Dog Treats

This is the third of three posts in the Ernie's Treats category.

Our last extravagant dog biscuit flavor was peanut butter and bacon.  These are two of every dog's favorite flavors, so we knew they would be a big hit.  They have oats and whole wheat flour, so your dog can tell herself that they're healthy :)  The recipe calls for chopped up bacon, but I confess to using more of the bacon bits.  After all, the apple cheddar bacon treats called for them and didn't use the whole bottle.  I am slightly offended every time I open my spice cabinet and see a bottle that says "Bacon Flavored Bits."  Who knows what those things are made out of?!  I am desperate to use them and not desperate to eat them myself.  Luckily, the hounds don't mind, and these peanut buttery, bacon-y treats were devoured instantly.

In other doggie news, I dog-sat for Delilah (and bird-sat for Walter) this weekend.  It was really nice to be with Lila again; I do miss that bad dog, and she didn't steal any food (that I know of) or pee upstairs to steal Daisy's territory (at least I haven't found it yet).  I slept terribly because she insisted on sleeping between me and Mark, and she did fall into the koi pond once, but it's just so hard to be mad at her.

Recipe:

peanut butter and bacon dog treats
from Sally's Baking Addiction 

Ingredients:
1 cup natural creamy peanut butter
3/4 cup nonfat milk
1 large egg
1 cups flour, whole wheat or all-purpose
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/3 cup oats
2 - 3 strips bacon, chopped

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper of silicone baking mats.  Set aside.

2) In a large bowl, gently mix the peanut butter, milk, and egg together with a large spoon or spatula. Switch to a whisk to make sure no lumps remain.  Add the flour and baking powder.  You may need to turn the dough out onto the counter and use your hands to work in the flour because the dough is extremely thick and heavy.  Mix in the oats and chopped bacon.

3) Using a rolling pin, roll the dough out to 1/4" thickness.  Cut into shapers using cookie cutters or a knife.  Arrange on the baking sheets.  Bake for 18 - 20 minutes, or until very lightly browned on the bottom.  Remove from the oven, and flip the treats to bake the other side for 10 - 12 more minutes,

4) Allow to cool completely before serving to your pup.  Store at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Treats freeze well, up to 2 months.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ernie's Treats: Apple, Cheddar and Bacon Bits Dog Treats

This is the second of three posts in the Ernie's Treats category (we miss you, big dog!).  See the last post for more information.

This batch of homemade dog treats seemed to be the clear favorite among our pups - and why wouldn't it be?  Grated apples and cheddar cheese are great enough, but toss bacon bits in there?  You've got some happy hounds.  They're a little sweet, a little savory, with lots of texture and a great crunch.  Well, this is what I think Daisy told me as she devoured hers.  Either way, you should probably go bake up a batch of these for a dog that you love.

Recipe:

apple, cheddar and bacon bits dog treats
from The Cottage Market

Ingredients:
3 cups flour (all-purpose or whole whoa, or a mixture)
1 large egg
2 tablespoons softened butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces grated cheddar
1 large apple, peeled and grated
2 tablespoons dried parsley
3 tablespoons bacon bits
1 cup milk

Instructions:

1) Place the egg, butter and olive oil into a mixer bowl and whip together.  Add the milk and mix.

2) Slowly add the flours, then add the grated apple, cheese, parsley, and bacon bits.  The dough should be smooth and pliable.  If it is too dry, add a little water or milk; if it is too sticky, add a bit more flour.

3) Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Sprinkle some flour on the counter so the dough doesn't stick; roll out half of the dough to 1/4 inch thick.  If you'd like, sprinkle a little bit more cheese, bacon bits and parsley on top and give it a few rolls so everything sticks.  Cut out your shapes.

4) Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Put treats on the tray and bake for 20 - 30 minutes or until golden and browned on the bottom.  Allow to cool.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.  You can also freeze them for up to 6 months.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Ernie's Treats: Mint and Parsley dog treats

About a month ago, my sweet, caring, biggest-hearted-human-on-earth cousin Maggie got terrible news about her beautiful golden retriever.  Before I get to the sad stuff, let met tell you first about Ernie.

Picture the biggest goofball of a dog you can imagine, and that was Ern.  Ernie: the dog who was diagnosed with canine ADHD, who was happy even when he was at the vet, who loved walks on the beach.  He would literally "smile" when you walked in to their house, and would frantically try to please you by bringing you a present.  These presents ranged from socks to mittens to sometimes mouthfuls of your own shirt.  All of this would occur while he squeaked with excitement.

This was a dog that loved life, loved everyone, and loved everything (maybe except for going outside; he was pretty content to relax inside).  This was a dog who was best friends with a tiny chihuahua; he would let her take naps on his tail.  He  never get annoyed with all the other crazy animals Maggie brought home for him to meet, whether it was a deer fawn, a goat, a sheep, or a rat.

Ernie was a love, and his family loved him very much.  This made it so much harder when they found out that even though Ernie was a young pup, they didn't have much longer with him.  I don't have to get into the details, because I was more interested in sharing the healthy Ernie with you.  I am also interested in sharing what Maggie and I decided to do with some of the precious time we had left with him: we decided to bake him some homemade dog treats.
Dog treat dough galore!

It sounds simple, but we made a day of it, and it was a beautiful day.  We decided to bake three different types of dog treats to feed our own dogs, but also to sell at our town benefit.  All four of our hounds -  Daisy, Delilah, Ernie and Ruby Sue - were going to be our taste testers, but Ernie was our mascot.   Maggie printed up tags with a gorgeous picture of Ernie on the front, and wrote "Ernie's Treats" on them.  We then baked up a storm here at my house for a whole afternoon, packaged them up, and had Mark take a basket of them to the Neighbors Helping Neighbors Town Benefit, which is an awesome little thing our town does to raise money that is used to help each other out in times of need.  Our dog treats were sold in the bake sale area, and were nearly sold out by the time I went to the fair to see how they were doing!  It made Maggie and I happy to know we were feeding lots of dogs some treats made with love, and that Ernie was living on in these happy hounds.

Ernie passed away a couple weeks ago.  It was hard and sad and awful.  His family will always miss him - even though their new pup Arlo definitely has a little Ernie in him, and has helped dull the pain a little bit.  I will be sharing the three Ernie's Treats recipes over the next three dog posts, starting with these easy mint and parsley treats (we called them Breath Savers!).  I hope you try some new dog treats out for a dog that you love.  Just think of Ernie when you make them <3

Recipe:

mint and parsley dog treats
from Live in Art

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup oats
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Instructions:
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2) Mix oil and water.  Slowly add flour, and then all other ingredients.

3) Roll dough out on a flat surface to desired thickness.  Cut out with cookie cutters.  Reroll extra dough and continue cutting cookies until dough is gone.

4) Place on cookie sheet; bake for 35 minutes.  Treats can be frozen, or can last for about 1 month in an airtight container.




Sunday, September 21, 2014

Corn Dog Muffins

Because I am married, I have now realized that any time I neglect to drink alcohol or take a day off from work, everyone will think I am pregnant.  The problem is, I never really drink, and I did actually get sick last week and miss a day of work.  It's crazy how quickly people have been asking me when they can expect babies.  The truth is, they're going to have to wait a while.  I just went back to school and would prefer to finish that up first.  In addition, Mark and I just moved out of our parents' houses!  We are newlyweds who are also, in a way, new adults.  I think we have to master this part of our lives before we add anyone else's lives to the mix.  It'll happen, but it won't happen any time too soon!

With that said, I have been thinking a lot about our future (hyperactive) children.  I have been reading way too many blogs on how to get your kids to be good eaters.  It is so important to me that my children aren't your average macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, and hot dogs every night kind of kids.  I myself was a picky eater (nothing pickier than a 2-year old vegetarian who didn't like vegetables), and I don't want that for my kids.  I want them to want to eat quinoa, and arugula, and curries.  I don't want them to hate spicy food or fish or even meat, for that matter.  Some of the blogs I follow have young children with more adventurous palates than I do!  I really hope I can stick to my guns and force my little Ajemians to enjoy leeks and polenta and farro!

However, in case one night my sweet darlings throw a hissy fit about millet casserole, here's a good backup plan: mini corn dog muffins.  Now, I made a different version of these before, and Kenzie and I thought they looked a bit obscene.  This time around, I tried a different corn muffin recipe, and I cut the hot dogs into smaller pieces.  That way, they completely sunk into the muffin and didn't poke out, looking downright inappropriate.

I actually made this batch for some kids - Laura's and Cathleen's.  One night they all came over to do some heavy duty work gossip, and I whipped these up for the three little ones.  However, I think Kenzie and Nick liked them just as much if not more than the littles.  And to be honest, I made a few that I left the hot dogs out of, and I enjoyed eating those!  There's something nostalgic and comforting about corn dogs, I tell you.  I'm still dreaming of the vegetarian corn dog I got at a festival 2 years ago.  Maybe next time, I need to try these with my soy dogs! :)

my hungry corn dog muffin eaters, checking out the pond!
One side note, perhaps slightly off topic: I cut way too many little pieces of hot dog for these muffins, but I found a great use for them.  Dog owners, rejoice: it was the perfect way to get Daisy to take her pills!  I just pushed a pill into each hot dog slice, and she devoured it so quickly, she didn't bother trying to spit out the pill (which she does with every single other way I've come up with to get her to take her pills!)  So if you have a strangely mouth-dexterous dog, little hot dog slices may be your new best friend.

Recipe:

corn dog muffins
from the Pioneer Woman
makes 6 servings

Ingredients:
1/4 cup shortening, melted, slightly cooled
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup milk
1 whole egg
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 whole hot dogs

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Combine corn meal, flour, and salt in a mixing bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk, milk, and egg.  Add baking powder and baking soda to the wet ingredients.  Stir into the dry ingredients.  Add 1/4 cup melted shortening,  stirring constantly.

2) Grease muffin tins and fill them a little more than half full with batter.  Cut a hot dog into pieces.

3) Bake until cornbread is done, about 10 - 12 minutes.  Remove from the pan and serve with ketchup and mustard.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Baklava

Let me set the scene: it was the Tuesday of the week of my wedding.  I would be going to my rehearsal dinner in two short days, on Thursday, and the wedding was Friday.  I had lived in my new house for about a month; I wasn't totally moved in yet.  Basically, I was in full pre-wedding craziness mode.  What do you think I was doing on this particular Tuesday?

If your guess was, making homemade baklava and hosting a huge house party, you guessed correctly!  I know, most people probably wouldn't have guessed that.  But here's the thing: I had to have a party because my Irish family needed to learn the Armenian wedding dancing that we would all be doing at the wedding!  We had tried to have this Armenian dance party for months, and people were busy and life was too insane.  Then we kind of ran out of time, so Mark's mother and I decided that the party simply had to be that Tuesday.  My house is bigger and could fit more people, so we decided to have it here.  And I simply couldn't host a party without making something, even though everyone volunteered to bring snacks, desserts and other awesome things (no one makes homemade salsa like Andrea, let me tell you).  I figured that this was the perfect opportunity to try making my own baklava; Mark's Armenian family would be experts and could tell me how I did, and my family could get into the Armenian spirit with a dessert!

Now, this was not the most labor-intensive dessert I ever made, but it was also probably not one to make the busiest week of my life.  Perhaps some simple brownies would have sufficed.  To be honest, though, this was a pretty fun recipe to make, and not unlike spanakopita. You melt butter.... lots of butter... and brush it onto a few sheets of phyllo dough.  In between buttered dough layers, you add chopped nuts and cinnamon.  Then more dough, more nuts, etcetera, and bake it all.  Then the magic really happens: honey, water, sugar and vanilla are boiled together into a thick syrup that gets poured over the whole baked dish.  This part was a little scary, because I was afraid I was adding too much and that it would be too squishy.  In the end, I actually didn't pour on enough, and it didn't have that super sticky baklava texture; the phyllo was a bit too dry, and thus flaky.

However, this baklava was absolutely delicious, and people were raving about it, even if it wasn't perfect.  The crunchy spiced nuts mixed beautifully with the super sweet syrup, and it just tasted like a fun summer night.  Plus I decided to put each piece in a muffin cup, which definitely helped the presentation!   I think that people were mostly impressed that the bride-to-be was making homemade baklava three days before the wedding :)  I have a distinct memory of Christy looking at the array of foods on our table and saying, "what bride puts on this spread the Tuesday of her wedding week!?"  It made me pretty proud that I am that bride.  If you had told me a few years ago that this would be the case, I would have thought you were insane.
My work station!

And as for the Armenian dancing?  Mark's family were great teachers.  We got the easy dance down pretty quickly.  The more complicated ones?  Well, we'll leave those to the real Armenians.  I may not be able to emulate their dances, but I can make a mean baklava.

Recipe:

baklava
from the Pioneer Woman
makes 16 servings

Ingredients:
1 package phyllo dough
4 cups chopped walnuts or pecans
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 sticks butter, melted
2 cups honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Instructions:

1) Remove phyllo dough package from freezer and place in fridge for 24 hours to thaw.  Remove from fridge 1 hour before using.  When working with phyllo, remember to only remove the sheets you immediately need, keeping the other sheets covered in plastic wrap, then a damp cloth.

2) Toss together the chopped nuts and cinnamon.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Thoroughly butter a rectangular baking pan.  Make sure the sheets of phyllo will generally fit the pan.  If they're a little bigger, that's okay; if they are much bigger, just trim them with a sharp knife.

3) Butter the top sheet of phyllo with melted butter, then grab it and the unbuttered sheet below it.  Set the two sheets in the pan, buttered sheet face down.  Press lightly into the pan.  Repeat this twice more, so that you have six sheets of phyllo into the pan, three of the sheets buttered.

4) Sprinkle on enough nuts to make a single layer.  Butter two sheets of phyllo and place them on top of the walnuts.  Add more nuts, then two more buttered phyllo sheets.  Repeat this a couple more times, or until you're out of nuts.  Top with 4 more buttered phyllo sheets, ending with a buttered top.  Cut a diagonal diamond patter in the baklava using a very sharp knife.

5) Bake for 45 minutes or until the baklava is very golden brown.  While baklava is baking, combine 1 stick of the butter, honey, water, sugar, and vanilla in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.

6) When you remove the baklava from the oven, drizzle half the saucepan evenly all over the top.  Allow it to sit and absorb for a minute, then drizzle on a little more until you think it is thoroughly moistened.  You'll likely have some of the honey mixture left over.

7) Allow the baklava to cool, uncovered, for several hours.  Once cool and sticky, carefully remove them from the pan and serve.