Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cinnamon Rolls

Think of this post as a public service announcement.  I am going to just take a minute here to highly recommend, that, on your next rainy Sunday morning, you click on over to the Pioneer Woman's website and get to work on these cinnamon rolls.  You and your family will be very, very happy.  We were!
If, like me, you only have two people in your family, this recipe halves very well.  This was a relief, since I think that even though it's just the two of us...we could have easily polished off the 50 of these that the entire recipe makes!  I made half the recipe, which yielded just about 20 cinnamon rolls.  I baked them all, but froze one tray.  We had unexpected guests that afternoon, and polished off the first tray.  With mulled apple cider (boozed up with some Butterscotch Schnapps, thanks mom!) and a little early Halloween candy, it was, I have to say, my best party ever.  And completely unplanned.
I daresay, Martha would have been proud.  And maybe even the Pioneer Woman.  I am lucky enough to have her cookbook, and have definitely gotten a lot of use out of it.  But the rest of you can just follow this link.  I will say this though -- I am pretty sure I have never used so much butter and sugar at once!  Nor made such a mess of my tiny kitchen.  All totally worth it. I am now considering using that much butter and sugar in everything!  Turns out...fat and sugar taste very, very, very good indeed.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Apple Cranberry Torte

As far as recipes go, Marian Burros' Plum Torte is pretty darn famous, having appeared in the New York Time something like 15 times.  Growing up, however, I thought of it as my mom's famous plum torte.  A big fan of Elegant But Easy (by Marian Burros and Lois Levine), my mom made this torte often and it was requested even more often. 

So imagine my surprise, as an adult, when I discovered that other people knew about my mom's plum torte!  Although, if you ask me, not enough people know about Elegant But Easy!  I myself cook from The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook, the second edition that came out in the `90's.   As a fickle owner of many cookbooks, I am quite loyal to this one, and turn to it when I need to bring along a dish to a potluck or am entertaining.  The dessert chapters, in particular, have never let me down.  There is a Chocolate Angel Food Cake recipe in there that is a favorite of mine!   My only complaint about this book is that the brownie recipe is all gussied up, not the simple Barbara's Brownie recipe in the original book.  That was our classic family brownie recipe growing up, and my sister even made it to a state fair on that recipe!  I have to confess that I am keeping an eye out for an old copy of the original book, even though it is pretty out of date.

This Apple Cranberry Torte recipe appears in the new edition of the book, alongside the original plum torte.  And, for those of us who like to keep things healthy, there is even a healthier version.  I've yet to try that one, but I will let you know if I do soon!  I have a full basket of apple from apple picking on the kitchen table, so you never know.

This torte, like the original plum torte, is easy peasy.  And moist and delicious and very impressive when you arrive to a party with it in hand.  Really, can you ask for anything more?

Apple Cranberry Torte
from The New Elegant But Easy Cookbook, by Marian Burros and Lois Levine
serves at least 8

1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 medium-large tart, firm apples
1/2 lemon
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup plus 2-3 Tbsp sugar
2 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1-2 tsp cinnamon, or to taste
1/4 cup currant jelly or apricot jam

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 10-inch springform pan.
2. Bring 1 and 1/2 cups water to a simmer and then remove from the heat.  Add the dried cranberries and soak for about 15-20 minutes, until the berries become plump.  Drain well.  Meanwhile, peel and core the apples.  Cut into 1/2 inch thick wedges.  Squeeze the lemon juice from the 1/2 lemon over the apples so that they do not brown.  Set aside.
3. Cream the butter and the sugar using an electric mixer until fluffy.  Add the flour, eggs, and baking powder.  Stir until well-combined.  Stir in the cranberries, reserving a small handful to sprinkle on top. 
4. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.
5. Starting from the outside, place the apple wedges in concentric circles, pointed edges facing towards the center. 
6. Combine the 2-3 Tbsp sugar with 1-2 tsp cinnamon (to taste).  Sprinkle the cinnamon-sugar mixture liberally over the apple wedges.   Toss the remaining cranberries over the top.
7. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake about 40-50 minutes, until the top is golden brown, the apples are tender (but not mushy), and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out dry.
8. This cake refrigerates and freezes well when carefully wrapped. 
9. Before serving, melt the jelly over the stove top.  Use a pasty brush to glaze the cake with the melted jelly.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Spicy Honey-Nut Chicken with Barbecued Succotash

So, the Dishwasher here (aka, my husband) is a little picky about his chicken, in that, he professes an extreme dislike to "boring chicken."  This made planning our wedding menu pretty hard!  Have you noticed how most reception sites serve, well, a slab of chicken and a few sides?  That was so not going to fly with the groom!  At any rate, it leaves me, when planning our weekly menus, constantly trying to come up with ways to make chicken more interesting.  Dredged in a hot sauce mixture and coated in bread crumbs and honey-nut peanuts, this chicken, in my humble opinion, was certainly interesting enough!  I served it with a simple succotash of beans, corn, and red pepper, combined with barbecue sauce.  Succotash generally doesn't appeal to me (still traumatized by frozen lima beans), but this one, with its smoky barbecue flavor and soft pinto beans, was delish!

This is another recipe that I adapted from Rachael Ray's book for kids.  Childless though we may be, we've loved every recipe that we've tried from this book.  And since it's written for kids, the recipes have all actually taken me 30 minutes or less.  So I am here to whole-heartedly recommend Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids to people of ALL ages!

Just a quick note before I get the recipe up here -- I used chicken cutlets in this recipe, which were fabulous.  You could use breasts though, and if you were ambitious, you could pound them out nice and thin.  I think chicken tenders would also be great here!

Spicy Honey-Nut Chicken with Barbecued Succotash
serves 4

Spicy Honey-Nut Chicken

4-5 chicken cutlets (or 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts or 16 chicken tenders)
1/2 to 2/3 cup honey-roasted peanuts
1/2 cup bread crumbs (fresh or store-bought)
1 Tbsp grill seasoning blend, such as Montreal Grill Seasoning by McCormick
1 egg
a splash of half-and-half (fat-free works fine)
2 tsp (or more to taste) hot sauce
1/2 cup flour
cooking spray

1. Preheat oven to 350 degree Fahrenheit.
2. Put the peanuts, breadcrumbs, and grill seasoning blend in a food-processor and grind to combine.  (A mini-food processor is great here!)
3. Beat the egg with the half-and-half and hot sauce.  Preheat a non-stick skillet on the stove, set at medium-high.
4. Set up your dredging stations.   On the far left, in a shallow dish, put the 1/2 cup of flour.  In the middle, in a shallow dish, place the egg mixture.  On the right, in a shallow dish, place the nut-bread crumb mixture.  Spray the non-stick skillet with cooking spray.
5. Coat the chicken pieces, first in the flour, then the egg mixture, and finally the bread crumb mixture.  Tongs work great for this!  Place the chicken in the skillet.  Cook for two minutes on each side, coating with cooking spray on top before turning.  Place the browned chicken on a baking sheet, and place it in the oven for 10-12 minutes (less for cutlets or tenders) until the chicken is cooked through.

Barbecued Succotash

1 Tbsp canola oil or olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 box frozen corn (defrosted if you want to move a little quicker, frozen if you are lazy like me)
salt and ground pepper, to taste
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
a few Tbsp chopped cilantro, for garnish


1.  In a medium skillet, over medium-high heat, heat the oil through.  Then add the onion and red bell pepper.
2. Once the vegetables are softened (about 5 minutes), add the beans and corn, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
3. Once the beans and corn have heated through, add the barbecue sauce.  Serve with cilantro to garnish.

For more recipes from great cookbooks (you know me and the cookbooks), check out Cookbook Sundays over at Brenda's Canadian Kitchen!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sneak Peek at Next Week

TGIF!  We are going to a potluck tonight, and I'm bringing along a fall version of Marion Burros' famous plum torte, with apples and cranberries instead of plums.  I can't wait to try it!  My mom made that plum torte a lot when I was growing up, and I have VERY fond memories of it.  I'll let you know how it goes.

So, here's what else we're looking forward to eating around here!
- Breakfast for Dinner: Egg McMuffin sandwiches
- Bacon and Cheese Panini
- Hearty Minestrone Soup with Garlic Parmesan Breadsticks
- Parmesan Burgers served with Spinach, Bacon, and Egg Salad

Anyone else have any good plans?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Double Panini Night: Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Panini AND Pizza Panini

This is another quick, simple, and fast dinner that went over BIG with the taste-tester (and by taste-tester, I mean my husband).  This is actually two recipes in one...a Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella panini and a Pizza panini.  Both are made on garlic bread, and both are delicious!  I like the Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella myself -- I love tomato and basil together.  But my husband loved the Pizza panini.  My Pizza panini were very simple, just pizza sauce and cheese.  But you could add pepperoni or roasted peppers or any of your favorite pizza toppings!  I used a small loaf of Italian bread here, and made tiny little sandwiches so we could sample both.  But you could go ahead and use a larger loaf of bread and just slice the sandwiches in half to mix and match.   I served these with a quick green salad, which balanced out the meal perfectly.
Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Panini AND Pizza Panini
serves 3-4
adapted from Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids

1 small loaf Italian bread, in 16slices, or 1 large loaf Italian bread, in 8 slices and then sliced in half
4 tsp canola or olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1-2 plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/4 cup pesto (store-bought or homemade, I won't tell)
1/2 lb fresh mozzarella (sliced), or 1 cup cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
1/4 cup pizza sauce, any kind
salt and pepper

1. Crush and peel the cloves of garlic by smashing with the side of a knife.  Place them in a very small bowl with the 4 tsp of oil.  Microwave on HIGH for 25 seconds, or until the garlic becomes fragrant.
2. Using a pastry brush, brush the garlic oil on each slice of bread. 
3. Place the sliced bread, oil side down, on a large cutting board.  Begin assembling the sandwiches.
4. For the four Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella panini, begin by spreading 8 of the slices of bread with pesto (about 1 tsp on each slice).  Then, sprinkle four slices of bread with the diced plum tomatoes.  Cover with the sliced or shredded mozzarella.  Then sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place another pesto-smothered slice of bread on top and close.
5. For the pizza panini, spread four of the remaining slices of bread with pizza sauce.  Top with the remaining mozzarella cheese, and close with the remaining bread.
6.  Use a panini press to press and toast for 5-8 minutes.  Alternately, you can use a non-stick skillet or grill pan.  Just use a second pan topped with a few cans to weight the sandwiches.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cold Sesame Soy Noodles and Potstickers with Dipping Sauce

This little dinner packs in a lot of flavor and a lot of (mostly hidden) vegetables...and can be on your table in 30 minutes!  I adapted this from a Rachael Ray recipe...and frankly, I love Rachael Ray, but her 30-minute meals usually take me more like 45+ minutes.  I know that that is a frequent complaint about her recipes, and so, let me tell you, from a slow cook, this dinner really takes only 30 minutes!

Now, two confessions here...first, those came from the frozen!  I've made potstickers before a little more from scratch.  Those are great for days when I have a little more time.  But I found these Joyce Chen dumplings in the freezer section of my supermarket on sale, and I was very pleasantly surprised by how low in fat and sodium they were.  So, in the cart and onto the plate they went!  Also, my other confession...I adapted this recipe from Rachael Ray's cookbook for kids: Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals For Kids.  Lest my relatives reading this get all excited, let me just assure you that there are no kids here.  But, well, some of us have kiddie taste buds around here!

My adaptations here were to make this recipe a little lighter.  I used less oil, and added in a little brown sugar to the dressing.  When you add less oil to a dressing, you need a way to balance the acidity of the vinegar.  A tablespoon of brown sugar actually packs in fewer calories than the equivalent in oil, and it rounds the flavor out nicely.  I also packed in many more veggies than Rachael Ray suggested.  The shredded cabbage and bean sprouts blend so nicely into the noodles that you don't even realize how many veggies you are getting!  This recipe calls for one of my favorite quick fixes -- the shredded cabbage/carrot blend that you can find near the bagged salads in your grocery section.  I can usually find this at a very reasonable price (usually $1.50 or so).  It is great not just to make slaws with, but also to add to stir-fries and other Asian style dishes such as this one. 

Cold Sesame Soy Noodles and Potstickers with Dipping Sauce
serves 4-6
adapted from Cooking Rocks! Rachael Ray 30-Minute Meals for Kids

1 package frozen store-bought potstickers, dumplings, or spring rolls (vegetable, chicken, pork, or shrimp)
1/2 cup plum sauce or duck sauce
2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
2 tsp dark sesame oil
1 tsp red-pepper flakes
1 scallion, finely chopped

6oz thin whole-grain spaghetti
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp reduced fat peanut butter
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp dark sesame oil
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp water
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional, and to taste)
2 cups shredded cabbage and carrot mix (coleslaw mix)
2 cups mung bean sprouts
1/2 cup sliced water chestnuts
1 1/2 cup broccoli florets, chopped.
3 scallions, finely chopped

1. Prepare the dumplings/potstickers/spring rolls according to the package directions.  (I used potstickers and boiled them as opposed to frying to make the dish light and healthy.)
2. Meanwhile, prepare the dipping sauce by mixing together the 1/2 cup plum or duck sauce, the 2 Tbsp soy sauce, the 2 tsp sesame oil, the 1 tsp red-pepper flakes, and the 1 finely chopped scallion.  Set aside.
3. Cook the pasta according to the package directions so that it is slightly al dente.  During the last five minutes of cooking, add the chopped broccoli to the boiling water.  Once the noodles are done to your liking, drain them with the broccoli and rinse with cold water.  Drain again, quite well.
4. In the bottom of a large bowl, combine the 1/2 cup soy sauce, the 3 Tbsp peanut butter, the 2 Tbsp rice vinegar, the 1 Tbsp sesame oil, the cayenne pepper (to taste), the brown sugar, and the water.  Whisk well.
5.  Add the shredded cabbage and carrots, the bean sprouts, the water chestnuts, the scallions, the broccoli, and the noodles.  Toss well.
6. Serve a mound of noodles with the potstickers/dumplings/spring rolls on the side, along with dipping sauce in a small bowl.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Slow-Cooker Cuban Red Beans and Rice

Can you tell how much we love beans around here?  They are a great way to get protein and fiber, and very inexpensive!  Lately, I am really loving making them in my slow-cooker.  That enables me to use dried beans and avoid the sodium that is added in canned beans.  I used red kidney beans in this recipe, but you could also try using black beans.  It's a delicious recipe -- lots of flavor from the smoky cumin and sweet fennel seeds.  There is just a little bit of heat to this, but feel free to top it with lots of hot sauce, the way that we did!  Best of all, this is really easy to throw together!  I soaked my beans the night before, and I put together the broth, water, peppers, and seasonings at the same time.  I put them in a large Tupperware container in the fridge, and then just threw everything into the slow-cooker before I left the house in the morning.  I came home, just made a little quick-cooking brown rice, and had a yummy, warm dinner to fill my belly on a chilly fall evening.

As I mention, I served this with a little hot sauce on top (actually, I used a Chinese chile-garlic sauce).  This would also be cooked topped with cilantro, a few bacon crumbles, or sour cream.  We ate this as a one-dish dinner, but a few sauteed plantains or a green salad would make a great side dish!

Slow-Cooker Cuban Red Beans and Rice
serves 10
adapted from The Best of Cooking Light Everyday Favorites


1 pound dried red kidney beans
2 cups water
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (to make this vegetarian, you can use vegetable broth)
2 cup chopped onion (about 2 small white onions)
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 chopped Cubanelle pepper
2 Tbsp canola oil
2 tsp salt
2 tsp fennel seeds
4 tsp cumin (or you can use 2 tsp cumin + 2 tsp coriander)
2 tsp dried oregano
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 (10 oz) can diced tomatoes and green chiles (drained if you prefer)
5 cups hot cooked rice (I used brown minute rice)
Hot sauce, cilantro, bacon, sour cream to garnish (optional)


1. Sort and wash beans and place in a large bowl.  Cover with water by 2 inches, and leave overnight (or at least 8 hours).  Drain.
2. Combine beans, 2 cups water, and next 10 ingredients (through oregano).  You can do this ahead of time and refrigerate in a container, or you can do this right into your slow-cooker before cooking.  Place in an electric slow-cooker.  Cover, and cook on HIGH for 5 and 1/2 hours, or until the beans are tender.  Add the vinegar and tomatoes before serving.  (I cooked mine an addition 30 minutes on HIGH at this point to to heat through the tomatoes, but you do not have to.)  Serve over hot cooked rice.  A serving is 1 cup of the bean mixture and 1/2 cup of rice.
3. Garnish to taste with hot sauce, bacon crumbles, cilantro, or sour cream.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sneak Peek at Next Week

Well, I am still here and I still exist!  I teach pre-kindergarten, and the kids started up at school this week.  Every year, I am surprised how much energy it takes to settle them in!  But I have a great slow-cooker recipe from this past week to share with you, so check back in tomorrow.

As for the week coming's what we have planned!

-- Panini Night: Tomato, Cheese, and Basil Panini AND Pizza Panini
-- Pesto, Spinach, and Broccoli Pizza
-- Cold Soy Sesame Noodles and Spring Rolls
-- Spicy Honey-Nut Chicken with Barbecued Succotash

Anyone have any exciting recipes planned for next week?  Do share!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sloppy Bombay Joes

Well, well, well.  All of my rooting for Aarti Sequeira on the Next Food Network Star really paid off.  Last night, I made my first recipe from her show, and people, believe me when I tell you that this was fabulous.  My husband went back for seconds, and I think even thirds...and we're not big on seconds around here!  These sloppy joes have a deep, warm flavor from the garam masala spice mix, and a wonderful crunch and sweetness from the toasted nuts and raisins.  I cannot imagine how I will ever like a different sloppy joe as much! 

This recipe went quicker for me than the website indicated -- it took just 45 minutes.  The orignal recipe called for ground turkey....but my grocery store never got in their shipment of ground turkey.  So, to keep this healthy and economical, I used a mixture of 90% lean beef and 1 can of cannellini beans.  It turned out great, and I'd go ahead with that mix again!  I also think this would be tasty with some lentils cooked right in the sauce, and could even be made that way to be completely vegetarian.  I served this on whole-wheat English muffins, but if you want a bigger sandwich, by all means, get a good hamburger bun or sandwich roll!  Just promise me you'll try this's that good.

Bombay Sloppy Joes
serves 4-6
adapted from


2 tsp canola oil
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, pushed through a press
1/2 serrano chile, seeded and well minced
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1 15 oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup water

Meat Filling:
2 tsp canola oil, divided
1/4 cup peanuts, pistachios, or cashews
1/4 cup raisins
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 large white onion, finely diced
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 serrano chile, seeds intact (for more heat, you can finely dice the second half of the pepper)
1/2 pound 90% lean ground beef
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp honey
1/4 cup fat-free half-and-half
a few Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
4-5 hamburger buns or whole wheat English muffins, buttered (if desired) and toasted

1. Begin by making the sauce.  Heat 2 tsp canola oil over medium heat and a medium saucepan.  Add the garlic, ginger, and minced serrano chile, and cook a couple of minutes, until the garlic and ginger become fragrant and take on a slight hint of color.
2. Add the 1 tsp garam masala and the 1/2 tsp paprika, and cook for 30 seconds, until the spices become fragrant.
3. Add the tomato sauce and 1 cup of water.  Bring to boil, and then reduce the heat so the sauce just simmers.  Cook for 15 minutes, until the sauce is thickened.
4. Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet, heat 1 tsp canola oil over medium heat.  When the oil is good and hot, add in the nuts and raisins and 1 Tbsp of water.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until the water has evaporated, the nuts have toasted, and the raisins have plumped up.  Set the nut and raisin mixture aside.
5. Add a second teaspoon of oil to the skillet.  When it has heated, add the cumin seeds.  Allow them to sizzle for 1 minutes, and then add the minced onion and red bell pepper.
6. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and just started to take on color.
7. Add the ground beef, and cook for 5 minutes, until the meat becomes opaque.
8.  At this point, the sauce should be ready.  Add the sauce and the beans to the skillet, and bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat so the mixture just simmers.  Cook for another 10 minutes, to allow the mixture to become quite thick.
9. Remove from the heat, and add in the honey.  Gradually add in the half-and-half.  Stir through and taste, and then salt as necessary.
10. Serve on English muffins or buns, topped with a bit of finely topped cilantro.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Honey-Spice Cake

Honey cake is a traditional dessert served on Rosh Hashanah, as the sweetness of the honey represent the sweetness of the new year ahead.  This year I made us a Weight Watcher's recipe.  The flavor is this cake is great -- the honey and spices blend together so well.  I found the texture slightly dry at the end pieces.  Next year I might try adding a little yogurt for moisture, or grabbing it out of the oven slightly sooner.  Nevertheless, we are enjoying the left overs!  I think it would also be a great candidate for a little vanilla ice cream topping, or perhaps even a glaze. 

I had some cinnamon flavored artisanal honey from Jansal Valley on hand that I used in here.  It was a great complement to the spices!  Because my cinnamon honey is quite spacey, I reduced the ground cinnamon in the recipe from 1 tsp to 1/2 tsp.  If you are just using regular honey, use a whole teaspoon of ground cinnamon!

Does anyone else have a great honey cake recipe?  I considered making this one again, but I wanted to try something different!

Honey-Spice Cake
adapted from Weight Watchers
serves 12

1 spray cooking spray
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground allspice
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup cinnamon honey (if you do not have this, just use 1/2 cup regular honey)
1/4 cup regular honey, preferably dark
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.  Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with 1 spray of cooking spray.
2. In a large bowl, combine well the dry ingredients (flour through allspice).  Set aside.
3. With an electric mixer, beat the eggs.  Add in the sugar, oil, and honey.  Beat until fluffy.  Add in the applesauce and vanilla and stir well.
4. Slowly combine the flour mixture with the wet ingredients.  Mix well, but not too much.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.  Sprinkle the 3 Tbsp chopped walnuts on top.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 40 to 45 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out dry.  Cool in pan for 15 minutes, and then on a wire rack until at room temperature.
6. Slice into 12 slices.
(Each slice is 3 Weight Watchers Points.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Broccoli-Egg-Cheese Burritos

Now, do you believe me that we like to eat eggs for dinner?  Yup, here we go again.  Actually, to tell you the truth, this is so simple that it is barely a recipe.  I wasn't even going to blog it...but then my husband announced that it was his favorite meal all week!  Yes.  After I slaved around making homemade sausages and made pretty little make-ahead sandwich wedges...his favorite was the burrito!  And, I definitely want to save this recipe for myself, since it is cheap AND healthy AND super-fast.  These are tasty, but simple.  I served them with barbecue sauce for dipping, which was a great combo with all that gooey, melted cheese.  But you could have a lot of fun messing around with condiments here.  There would also be good dipped in marinara or pizza sauce, or salsa, or even pesto. 

And I won't blame you if you eat this burrito for breakfast! 

serves 4
adapted from Yum-O, by Rachael Ray


2 small crowns broccoli
Italian herb blend (I like McCormick's Perfect in a Pinch Herb Garlic blend)
4 tsp canola oil
8 eggs, or 4 egg white and 4 yolks, or all egg whites (I just used the whites)
pinch of milk
salt and pepper
1 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese (or use a Mexican or Italian cheese blend)
4 large flour tortillas, preferably whole wheat.
barbecue sauce, marinara, pizza sauce, pesto, or salsa for dipping

1. Chop the broccoli fairly finely (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch has to fit in a burrito!).
2. Preheat the 4 tsp canola oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat.  Add the chopped broccoli and a pinch or two of an herb blend.  Saute about five to seven minutes, until the broccoli is cooked through.
3. Meanwhile, beat the eggs (or egg whites) and add a pinch of milk.  Season with salt and pepper. 
4. Once the broccoli is cooked, add the eggs to the pan and turn the heat down to medium-low.  Scramble the eggs with the broccoli.
5. Meanwhile, heat up each tortilla by placing it on a dry, non-stick griddle for a minute on each side.  The tortilla should bubble up a little.  On the second side, place 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese in the center and lightly spread out.  This coaxes the cheese into melting.
6. Once the eggs are scrambled, place 1/4 of the egg mixture on each tortilla.  Roll up, and serve with your choice of sauces for dipping. 

For more yummy Rachael Ray recipes, check out Saturdays with Rachael Ray over at Taste and Tell!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sneak Peek at Next Week

Whew, it is finally Friday!  Thank goodness for that!  I am enjoying a sneak preview of fall weather these few days here in the Boston area -- it is cooling down a little.

So here's what up on the roster for next week.  Looks like it will be a busy week for me, as the kids at school are finally starting, and I have a few appointments after school.  So I tried to find some good, quick dinner solutions!  This is what we're having:

-- Sloppy Bombay Joes
-- Hot Dog night!  Baked Beans and a slaw on the side
-- Egg Foo Yung, with a side of rice
-- Salad Nicoise in Pita Pockets
-- Cuban Beans and Rice

Anyone trying any interesting new recipes next week?  Or have fun weekend plans? 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Roasted Vegetable and Bacon Muffleta

This stuffed sandwich is a great little make-ahead meal, filled to the brim with roasted peppers, onions, zucchini, bacon, goat cheese, and fresh, peppery arugula.  Every now and then, the "science" and "art" of cooking (okay, or dumping and stirring, in my case), still amazes me.  And so, on that note, I must confess, that this muffleta seemed like magic to me!  I had never made (or tasted!) this traditional Italian stuffed sandwich.  And so, when I miraculously fit all of the ingredients into the bread shell, I was pretty impressed with myself.  And then, when it held together after being sliced, well, I was ready to give myself an honorary degree or at the very least a pat on the back!

Traditionally, muffletas are stuffed with much more meat than this.  But, if you've noticed...we don't eat very meat-heavy.  I adapted this recipe from Rachel Allen's Favorite Food at Home (yes, I'm a little obsessed with that book these days), who listed the meats as optional.  You can tell which option I took!  But, if you're more of meat-eater than us, we won't hold it against you.  Try adding in some ham, prosciutto, salami, or even smoked turkey. 

The vegetables here roast up in about 30 minutes or so, and then it just takes a few minutes to assemble the sandwich.  It's great if you make the night before, so that it can be pressed in the fridge over night.  The key to keeping this all together when you slice it is to really stuff the sandwich, so much that you cannot possibly fit anything else in there.  Again, I was so shocked by how much I could fit into that loaf of bread!  It was like Mary Poppins and her purse...only in opposite!  I just kept putting more and more in there!

Roasted Vegetable and Bacon Muffleta
serves 4-6
adapted from Favorite Foods at Home, by Rachel Allen


2 large red onions, peeled, and cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
2 medium zucchini, cut in half lengthwise, and then sliced vertically into 1/4 inch thick slices
2-3 red bell peppers, seeded and stemmed, cut into thirds (feel free to substitute 2-3 bottled roasted red peppers packed in water, drained and allowed to dry a little)
8 slices bacon (turkey bacon or regular)
1 round loaf of bread, about 8 inches in diameter, preferably sourdough
2 Tbsp pesto (homemade or not, I won't tell on you)
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp water
4 ounces goat cheese (log or crumbles are fine, both will work)
a few large handfuls baby arugula leaves
salt and pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Meanwhile, spread the zucchini, red onions, and peppers (if roasting fresh peppers) on foil-lined baking sheets.  Spread them out so that they will roast (if you put them all on one sheet they will just steam).  Spray them with cooking spray, and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper.  Toss with tongs to be sure everything is coated.
2. Roast the vegetables in the oven for about 30 minutes, until they are beginning to brown and caramelize.  You can stir them once at the halfway point, but you can also just ignore them and they will be very forgiving.
3. Meanwhile, cook the bacon according to package directions.
4. Slice the very top off of the bread to create a "lid."  Scoop out the inside, leaving a shell.  The inside of the bread can be tossed into a food processor and then dried out in the oven to create fresh breadcrumbs, if you wish.
5. Thin the 2 Tbsp of pesto with 1 tsp olive oil and 2 tsp of water.  Stir well.  With a large spoon, coat the inside of the bread and the inside of the lid of the bread well with the pesto mixture.
6. Once the vegetables are out of the oven and slightly cooled, it is time to start stuffing the sandwich!  (If you are using additional meats, put those in first.)  Start with half of the bacon, and follow with half of the roasted peppers.  Next, place in half of the goat cheese (crumbled or sliced.)  The next layer is half of the roasted zucchini followed the by roasted red onions.  At last, put in half of the arugula.  Use your hands or a large spatula to gently push everything down, so there will be room for the next layer. 
7. Repeat step 6 with the second half of the ingredients.  The sandwich should be very, very full...if it is not, it will not hold together when you slice it.  Once you have fit everything in, place the lid on top.
8. Cover the loaf in plastic wrap and place it on a large plate.  Now you need to figure out a system to weight it!  I have a panini press at home (not a machine, just a press to use on a sandwich on a skillet) that worked wonderfully.  You could also place a second plate or a cutting board on top of the sandwich, and weigh it down with  few cans or jars of jelly.  Let it rest, pressed, in the fridge for 3 hours or up to a day before cutting into wedges and serving.

To check out more cheap, healthy eats, click on over here to Family Food Fridays!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Homemade Sausages, Colcannon, and Applesauce

Here's another ugly duckling...not the most attractive little supper, but certainly warm and comforting before a long week ahead.  And for the record, I swear I feed my husband an adequate amount of food (okay, maybe a little more than adequate), we just have huge plates.

This is another version of bangers and mash.  Did I tell you how we took our honeymoon to London and Paris?  And can you guess which country inspired me more in the kitchen?  Not the one I would have predicted!  This plate was inspired by recipes from Rachel Allen's Favorite Food at Home.  This is, ahem, a newer acquisition in my life.  After fawning over Allen's books in London, and when I can find them here in the US, I finally found a used copy of this one and LOVE it!  We are three for three so far in the recipes I've tried.  I mean, hello, did you see those crumpets?  Anyone else have any Rachel Allen books?  I mean, now I clearly need to get more, right?  If I had to compare this book to others that I own, I would describe it as similar to something by Nigella Lawson or Tessa Kiros.

Now, back to my little dinner.  OK, people, this ain't a quick one.  It took me about an hour and a half to get on the table, so not entirely bad.  And the sausages are a cinch (and delish)!  I love recipes like this that roll the side dishes right into the recipe.  It makes me feel like being a little girl, and the nice square meals my mom served.  My meals tend to be much more lopsided, and my usual approach to side dishes involves plunking some greens on the plate followed by toppings from the pantry (at best).  But seriously, doesn't that little puddle of applesauce on the side sort of remind you of the TV dinners you ate when you were a kid?  You ate those too, right?  The LooneyTunes ones?  The cherry or apple dessert got hot and cooked right along with the mac and cheese?  Mmm.  Those were the days...

So, I adapted this quite a bit to lighten it up.  Feel free to unlighten it.  Like put the rest of the stick of butter in the mash.  Also, Allen calls for ground pork for the sausages...we don't eat pork at home, so I used a mix of very lean beef and chicken, which was just dandy to us.  And, erm, one more thing about the mash.  Okay, I got a little retro for another time period.  Remember the Atkins diet?  And the mashed cauliflower subbing in for mashed potatoes?  Um, yeah.  I totally, completely, mashed some cauliflower right in with my taters.  And then I went all Jessica Seinfeld and didn't really tell my husband till after he announced he liked it.  In my defense, and I really do have one...I made a colcannon once years ago when I was trying the Atkins diet for like a whole day (what was I thinking?  I love me some carbs) with cauliflower instead of potatoes.  And it was so good.  Memorably good.  And so, with good culinary intentions at heart, I busted some cauliflower right in there with my mash.   The cauliflower so nicely complements the flavor of the cabbage.  Delish.  And then, if you want to be super-cool like me, you could call it...caulicannon.  Please come back to my blog and I promise that this will be the worst joke you ever read!

Homemade Sausages, Colcannon, and Applesauce
serve 4-6
adapted from Favorite Foods at Home, by Rachel Allen


For the sausages:
3/4 lb very lean (95% lean) ground beef
1/2 lb ground chicken
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 egg plus 1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 garlic clove, peeled and pushed through a garlic press
1 tsp fennel seeds
1-2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh marjoram
1 tsp Montreal Steak Seasoning
salt and pepper
4 tsp canola oil, divided

For the colcannon:
3 large white floury potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into large chunks (about 1 inch)
1 small-medium head cauliflower, washed, cut into large chunks (about 1 inch)
1 small head green cabbage, cut into quarters, cored, and sliced fairly thin
2 Tbsp water
1 1/2 Tbsp butter
1 cup hot milk
salt and pepper

For the applesauce:
3 cooking apples (I used Ginger Gold)
2-3 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp brown sugar
a little cinnamon (optional)

1. Mix all of the ingredients for the sausages together, but feel free to start off with smaller amounts of the seasonings.  Fry up a tiny bit in skillet, and taste it once cooked through to see if the seasonings are good.  Add salt and pepper...go easy on the salt, since there is some in the Montreal Steak seasoning!
2. Shape the rest of the sausages into small logs -- this recipe should yield 12-14.  Place on a baking sheet and pop in the fridge until you are ready to use them.  (They can hang out in there up to a day, or can alternatively be frozen.)
3. Get the applesauce going.  Peel the apples, and cut into 1 inch sized chunks.  Place over low heat with the water, and cover.  You can kind of ignore them a bit...just check from time to time and give them a stir.  They will mush and turn to sauce pretty much on their own.  Add sugar and cinnamon to taste towards the end.  If at any point the mixture is looking too thin, leave the pot off for a while.  Once the apples have turned to a slightly lumpy sauce, turn the heat down to warm (or turn the heat off and serve the applesauce at room temperature).
4. Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and salt it.  Add the potato chunks.  Cook for five minutes, and add the cauliflower.  After another 5 minutes or so, pour out 3/4 of the water and turn the heat down to low.  cover the pot, and cook another 5 or 10 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.  Meanwhile, melt 1/2 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the cabbage once the butter is melted, and cook thoroughly.  (I like mine caramelized a little bit myself.)  Once the potatoes and cauliflower are soft, pour them into a colander, and return the steaming vegetables to the pot.  Put the pot back on the hot burner to dry them a little.  Add 1 Tbsp butter, and mash.  Add the hot milk, a little at a time, to reach desired consistency.  The cauliflower is watery, so you most likely won't want to add the full cup.  Mix the cabbage in, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve very hot. 
5. To cook the sausages, add 2 tsp of canola oil to the large skillet over medium heat.  Once the pan is hot and sizzling, add about 5-7 sausages.  Flatten a little with a spatula -- you want an even thickness!  Cook the sausages about 12-15 minutes, flipping once or twice during the cooking.  Once the first batch is done, repeat the process with the remaining 2 tsp of canola oil and sausages.

Monday, September 6, 2010


These little crumpets (or drop scones, as Rachel Allen calls them) are just lovely.  They are just slightly sweet, and a wonderful vehicle for jam, butter, or lemon curd.  They are excellent for soothing the mid-morning munchies or as an afternoon snack, hot and fresh from the pan.  They also toast up well the next day, so if you manage to have any left, no need to fret.  My husband and I are in perfect agreement that they fall someplace between a pancake and an English muffin, if you can imagine that.  The other fabulous thing about these is that they are fabulously low in effort.  I did the whole thing right in a large measuring cup, and so did not hear any complaints from the dishwashing staff around here.

I adapted this recipe from a lovely, lovely little book...Rachel Allen's Favorite Food at Home.  I adapted it in that I broke every baking rule possible and mixed the ingredients in backwards.  Yup.  Started with the liquid.  And I wound up with a delicious puffy little crumpet, just as I was hoping.  When you look at the ingredients, you will see how close this is to being a pancake!  And when I googled the recipe, I saw a lot of pancake-looking crumpets.  And while I'm sure that they are lovely, I was really after a puffy little crumpet, and very happy to end up with that. 

I've already got a yankering to make these again, and play around with the recipe a lot.  Seems to me like whole-wheat flour and raisins would be a welcome addition...what do you think?  Also, I went along and did as Rachel said and make crumpets with a tablespoon each of dough, but I confess I am curious to give a whirl at more of an English-muffin sized crumpet next time.  

One more thing, and then I'll stop rambling...this batter would be fun to whip up with kids, if you've got any around.  Wait till you see that good strong quick rise from all the baking powder!  If you've not got any kids around, you can be impressed and interested nonetheless, just like me.  I won't tell.

yields 10-12 "silver dollar" sized crumpets
adapted from Favorite Food at Home, by Rachel Allen

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp superfine sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (skim works fine)
cooking spray

1. In a large measuring cup, measure out the milk.  Crack the egg right into the measuring cup, and whisk it in.
2. Start heating a non-stick griddle over medium heat.
3. Add into the measuring cup the salt and sugar, then the flour and baking powder.  Stir the whole thing together well, but do not over-mix.
4. Spray the griddle with a little cooking spray.  For each crumpet, drop about a tablespoon of batter on the hot pan, keeping the crumpets far enough apart that they don't stick together.  (They do not spread too much, however.)  Cook each crumpet for about two minutes, until bubbles appear and pop, and it is golden on the bottom side.  Flip, and then give it two minutes on the second side.
5. Serve warm with butter, jam, lemon curd, or your favorite toppings.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Arugula Salad with Turkey Bacon, Walnuts, and Cornbread Croutons

My husband and I have a regular favorite salad structure...good sturdy greens, smoky turkey bacon, candied nuts, a little fresh or dried fruit, and a some strong cheese.  What we have here is another variation on the regular, pulled together with some delicious homemade cornbread croutons, some dates, and my all-time favorite cheese, comte.  Have you had comte?  It's been my favorite for years, since I discovered while studying abroad in Aix-en-Provence.  Give this humble little salad a try...the flavors all pull together so well!  It's a tasty, filling main-dish salad, but also would be nice enough to serve to guests.

Arugula Salad with Turkey Bacon, Walnuts, and Cornbread Croutons
serves 3 as a main course, 6 as a side-dish or starter

6 cups baby arugula, rinsed and dried
2-3 serving-sized squares cornbread, from leftovers or store-bought (alternately, 1 large corn muffin would work) (low-fat, if you prefer)
cooking spray
1 tsp cinnamon, divided
1 Tbsp brown sugar, divided
pinch cayenne pepper
freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
6 thin slices turkey bacon
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp whole-grain mustard
1 garlic cloves, pushed through a press.
3 Tbsp chopped dried dates
1 oz or less Comte cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cut cornbread (or corn muffin) into 1/2 inch dice.  For best results, be sure to cut the cubes evenly.
3. Spread cornbread cubes out on a baking sheet covered with foil.  Spray 5 times with cooking spray.  Sprinkle with 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar, and a little sit.  Toss to coat.  Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes, until firm and well toasted.
4. Toast chopped walnuts in toaster oven or on stove-top.  Once you can smell them and they begin to darken, remove quickly from heat.  Spray five times with cooking spray (short, quick, sprays!), and then sprinkle with 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 Tbsp brown sugar, 1 pinch cayenne pepper, and generous pinches of salt and pepper.  Stir to coat.
5. Cook turkey bacon according to package directions, and once crisp, remove from heat to cool slightly.
6. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette.  Blend the canola oil, red wine vinegar, pressed garlic, water, salt, and pepper well. 
7. To assemble main-dish salads, in each of 3 bowls, place 2 cups baby arugula.  Top each with 2 slices turkey bacon, crumbled, 2 Tbsp candied walnuts, 1 Tbsp dates, and 1/3 dressing.  Then arrange a few cornbread croutons on each salad.
8. To finish salads, use a vegetable peeler to create delicate shavings of Comte, and sprinkle a few on each salad before serving.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Sneak Peek at Next Week

Whew!  I had a long week!  My classroom is all set up though, and I'm excited to see kids actually playing in it!

Here's what's coming up next week, dinner-wise...
-- Muffleta Sandwiches
-- Homemade Chicken Sausages with Colcannon and Applesauce
-- Chickpeas and Rice, with Zucchini, Dates, and Feta, served with Matzo Ball Soup (this is what we're having for Rosh Hashanah)
-- Broccoli-Egg-Cheese Burritos

I am really excited to try the homemade chicken sausages with colcannon and applesauce.  I can't decide if I'm more excited about the side dishes or the main course there!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Summer Squash Enchilada Casserole

Well, this one is not exactly pretty.  But it is so tasty...multiple cheeses mixing with corn tortillas and a mild enchilada sauce.  And it can be ready for you when you get home.  I have been really, really loving my slow-cooker this week.  It is so nice to come home to have dinner all ready for me!  Though one thing I am adjusting to is not being able to check it and season as I go.  There have been a few calls to my husband this week to check on the progress of the slow-cooker!

This recipe will take you about 20-30 minutes to get up and going, so plan accordingly.  It is a great way to use all those zucchini and summer squash that are hanging around these days.  The recipe calls for 1 pound each green zucchini and yellow summer squash.  Tell you the truth...I think it could handle even more of the squashes! I might try bumping up the amounts next time.  Also, the original recipe calls for green enchilada sauce.  I could not find this in my store, and used just regular enchilada sauce instead.  But you could try substituting a salsa verde if you have the same problem.  And while we're at the confessing...I kind of used this recipe to use up a lot of the bits of cheese in my fridge!  The original recipe calls for 2 cups Monterey Jack, 2 cups cheddar, and 8 oz feta or queso fresco.  So, there you go.  You'll see, I used up a bit of Parmesan in mine.  This resulted in my husband telling me he though my enchiladas tasted like Italian food.  Um, yeah, whoops.  But it was good!

Summer Squash Enchilada Casserole
serves 6-8
adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow-Cooker Cookbook, by Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufman

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb green zucchini, ends trimmed, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 lb yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
2 cups finely shredded 75% fat free cheddar cheese (such as Cabot)
1 cups finely shredded Parmesan cheese
3-4 cups canned enchilada sauce (green is suggested)
1 dozen soft corn tortillas, each cut into four strips
2 - 8 oz queso fresco or feta cheese crumbles

1. In large nonstick skillet over medium high heat soften onion for about 5 minutes. Add garlic, zucchini, yellow squash, oregano, and cumin.  Cook, until the vegetables begin to brown, about 4-5 minutes. Add corn and cook another minute or two. Remove the pan from the heat.

2. Mix the shredded cheeses together, but leave the feta/queso fresco aside. Pour about 1/2 cup enchilada sauce in slow cooker, tilt to spread it around. Add layers...first tortilla strips, then a little enchilada sauce, then the squashes, then the cheese blend.(If using full 8 ounces queso fresco/feta, sprinkle this on top of the layer.  If using a smaller amount, like I did, reserve it for the top of the casserole.)   Repeat the layers twice.  To create the top layer, cover the casserole with the remaining tortilla strips, the remaining sauce, the remaining cheese, and finally the queso fresco or feta.
3. Cover and cook on high for 2 hours or low for 4 hours. The casserole will begin to burn around the edges but do not allow it to burn.
4. Let cool a little before serving.