Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Pasta with Creamy Red Pepper Sauce

This is one of my very favorite pasta dishes.  It is quick (ready in under 30 minutes, with minimal chopping)!  But it is also a little elegant and different, with rich and full Mediterranean flavors  I make this often for a weeknight meal, but, now that I think of it, I wonder why I haven't served it to guests.  Wouldn't it be fabulous in one of those cool Mediterranean style pasta bowls that I always covet from Williams-Sonoma?

This is another Ellie Krieger recipe, but it's from an earlier book, The Food You Crave.  And I definitely crave this dish often!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Cranberry Banana Coconut Muffins

These muffins pack so much into your breakfast: bright red tart cranberries, sweet chunks of banana, tender coconut, and ground flax seeds.

I actually adapted this recipe from the base in these apple muffins.  It's a great base for a lot of different fruit combinations.  This one, I'll confess, is sort of the random bits lying around my house: bananas getting too ripe in the fruit basket, some frozen cranberries, half a bag of shredded coconut, and a half-zested orange.  I think that some of my favorite foods come about from cleaning out the fridge.  There is something so joyful in having such a bounty of leftover bits and pieces, and being able to whip up amazing muffins or a great soup or stock with them.

If you want to clean out your own fridge -- keep the wet and dry ingredients the same, and just add in 2 cups of fruit and an optional 1/2 cup of nuts.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Stovetop Baked Beans with Apple Chicken Sausage

This is a humble, but delicious dish for supper.  It's how we turn one of our favorite summer meals (hot dogs with baked beans) into a warm, one pot sausage and beans bowl for the autumn.

The stove-top baked beans recipe comes from Ellie Krieger's Comfort Food Fix.  Yes, I'm still fixed on Comfort Food Fix!  It is filled with so many incredible recipes.  This recipe is great in that you make on the stove in just 30 minutes, but it tastes like it's been in your oven all day.  Plus, by making the baked beans yourself (and not cracking open a can), you can control the sodium, sugar, and preservatives.

I used the apple chicken sausage from Johnsonville here.  Have you tried it yet?  It was delicious!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cranberry Upside Down Cake

Well, I didn't exactly get a photo of this before we dug in.  And once we dug in, well, it was hard to stop.
This is a simple cake -- easy to bake and easy to eat.  It's not overly sweet or decadent, and you could easily get away with serving it with tea in the afternoon.  I served it alone after dinner, and then wished I'd gotten a little vanilla ice cream or sweetened whipped cream.  It was lovely and everyone loved it; I just thought it needed a little something!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Butternut Squash Pasta Casserole with Parmesan and Pecans

This casserole captures so many of my favorite fall flavors: sweet butternut squash and savory sage with nutty Parmesan cheese and toasty pecans.  Also, there's bacon.  Need I say more?

I've adapted this recipe from a cookbooks I use often when entertaining: Not Your Mother's Casseroles, by Faith Durand.  I love casseroles when I'm entertaining, and this collection of casseroles is elegant and modern.  I try to get them in the oven just before my guests arrive, and then I don't get stuck in the kitchen alone!  What are your tricks for entertaining?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fall Entertaining Part 4: An Autumn Dinner Party

We had friends over for dinner last weekend, and here's what we served:

Hummus and Chips
Green Salad with Sauteed Apples, Cheddar, and a Maple Vinaigrette
Butternut Squash Pasta Casserole with Parmesan and Pecans (recipe coming soon)
Green Beans in a Brown Butter Garlic Sauce
Cranberry Upside Down Cake (recipe coming soon)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Grilled Cheese

So this is how you make grilled cheese for dinner and still feel like a proper adult: you pack in spicy pepper jack cheese, sweet caramelized onions, and fresh tomato, and pack in between nutty whole wheat bread.
This is another recipe from Ellie Krieger (from The Food You Crave) that highlights her strategy of using full fat ingredients with a high amount of flavor, allowing you to use a smaller portion.  I have really learned a lot about healthful cooking from following her recipes.  The texture of the cheeses on this sandwich is amazing, and by choosing strongly flavored pepper jack and extra-sharp cheddar, you can get away with using a lot less cheese.  The sandwiches still come out at 350 calories each!  I think that I may be passing up that fat-free cheese a little more often!

On a rainy day (and we've had many in the Boston area), try this with Cream of  Roasted Tomato Soup.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

This smooth, rich soup comes together in just half an hour, making in the perfect way to warm your belly on chilly fall evening after a busy day.  Broccoli Cheddar Soup is one of those things that I always see on the menu at restaurants...especially Panera!  But I never order it, because of it being a little unfriendly to the waistline.

With this recipe, though, you can have your Broccoli Cheddar AND fit into your jeans the next day!  It's loaded with broccoli, and the milk and cheese make it a great source of calcium. This is another recipe that I've loved from Comfort Food Fix by Ellie Krieger.  It is heavy on the broccoli and lighter on the cheese, which yields a great flavor and less fat and calories.  I love that Krieger calls for full fat cheese here and not that fat-free stuff that doesn't actually melt!  By using extra sharp cheddar cheese, you can add less cheese, but still get a lot of flavor.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Little Devil's Food Cupcakes

An alternate title for this post was, ahem: "Homely, homely, homely are the cupcakes."

My husband said they looked home-made.  He is very nice, you know.

Okay, so the truth is: this was my first time decorating cupcakes.  Thank, thank you, for welcoming me to 2005.

They do taste very good.  What they taste like, actually, is a devil dog...homey and delicious and perfect with a glass of milk.

This is another great recipe from my new favorite cookbook, Ellie Krieger's Comfort Food Fix.  I am so enamored with this book, that I have decided to celebrate with a whole month of Ellie Krieger recipes.  I'll have you know, that's an unusual amount of loyalty to me as far as cookbooks are concerned.  I mean, I do sort of have tons.  Tons.

Do try these little cupcakes.  They are the perfect portion size, and deliver a good strong dose of chocolate.  The chocolate glaze is so easy and so, so, so delicious!  Frosting is always the best part, right?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sole in a White Wine Pan Sauce with Hazelnuts

There are two things that you must do.  First, you must run to the store, and get yourself a copy of Ellie Krieger's latest book, Comfort Food Fix.  Second, you must try this recipe.

First things first -- you might recognize Ellie Krieger from the Food Network or the Cooking Channel.  (Here is where I whine about how we don't get the Cooking Channel!)  She's a registered dietitian who offers recipes for food that works as hard for your body as it tastes good.  Her new book (out just this month) is great!  It offers clear instructions, beautiful photos (of most of the recipes), an easy-to-read layout, and nutrition information.  The selection of recipes is very strong.  Krieger goes beyond the dishes you see in most books or articles on comfort food to reflect the diverse foods that are comforting to eaters.  I am looking forward to trying: Kasha Varnishkes, Swedish Meatballs, and Autumn Vegetable Curry, among others.  Each dish is presented in a way that is healthier and fresh, incorporating whole grains, fresh produce, and low-fat dairy when possible.  Krieger is not afraid to use a little butter, and she does so in a way that produces just the right results.

This recipe is a great example of that philosophy.  Krieger calls for much less butter than in your typical white wine sauce, and favors instead mostly olive oil.  You add just a tablespoon of butter at the very end, which allows you to get tons of flavor from it without all of the saturated fat.  The sauce is amazing, and tastes better than many full-fat versions.  I loved this dish, as did my guests!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Fall Entertaining Part 3: An Indian Summer Dinner Party for Four

You wouldn't believe how warm it is here!  It was in the 80's today!  We went to an autumn craft fair at a nearby Botanical Gardens.  It was great to be outside.  We returned home to put together a little dinner for my father, who got married this past August, and his new wife.

We served:

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with Lemon Garlic Pita Chip
Greens tossed with Dried Apricots, Feta Cheese, and Mediterranean Croutons
Sole in a White Wine Sauce with Toasted Hazelnuts (recipe coming soon)
Roasted Potatoes with Rosemary and Garlic
Little Devil's Food Cupcakes (recipe coming soon)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Joanne Chang's Heart-Healthy Dried Fruit Scones

My husband and I live  just about half an hour outside of Boston, but we frequently pass a weekend day wandering around the city.  On such a day, one of our favorite things to do is to stop into one of the locations of Flour, Joanne Chang's bakery.  Well, to be more frank, if we are downtown, than I do require a visit to Flour.  What I love about Flour is that it feels like being at a much better version of a bake sale.  The cookies, bars, cakes, and cupcakes are all better versions of things you ate growing up: homemade oreos, granola bars, cupcakes, etc.

So, it didn't take me long to buy Joanne Chang's cookbook, Flour: Spectacular Recipes from Boston's Flour Bakery + Cafe.  I highly recommend this book.  It is clearly written, and packed with photographs.  The introduction sections are worth the purchase alone -- Chang offers a simple, clear primer on baking, and my baking has improved since reading this!  I think she convinced that it is worth being a little less cavalier about measuring, etc, when baking (which was always one of my bad habits).

I've made these scones a few times.  I followed the recipe without changing it, and therefore cannot share it here.  But you must, must check out this cookbook!  These scones use just a little oil, and no butter, but a combination of yogurt and buttermilk yields a great texture.  They are packed with dried fruit.  Chang makes recommendations about which fruits, but also suggests using your own combinations.  I love being able to customize the recipe for one of my favorite bakery treats.  I enjoy making them over the weekend, and heating them up for breakfasts throughout the week.  When we have them around, I wake up happy each morning, awaiting my warm scone for breakfast!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sunflower Seed and Oregano Hummus

I didn't make my own hummus until just last month.  Can you believe that, what with our incredible fondness for the humble chickpea?  I don't know what stopped me, except that it's so easy to find at the store.

But, let me tell you, I now make my own hummus.  And it's hard to think about going back to the store-bought stuff.  

This recipe is so creamy and packs in an incredible assortment of flavors: sweetness from the sunflower seeds, woody oregano, rich olive oil, and pungent garlic.  And, oh, yes, chickpeas.  I do love chickpeas.

To tell you the truth, I put the sunflower seed butter in more out of economic practicality than culinary ambition.  It worked, and boy did it work!  I use it in place of tahini, which can be expensive and which my husband doesn't eat.  We always have sunflower seed butter on hand because I pack it for lunch for myself now and then, where it pretends to be the peanut butter side of a sandwich.  It's fairly inexpensive, and you can find it in the peanut butter section of your supermarket.

This hummus is great as a dip for carrots or pita.  We've also used it on crispy, whole wheat flat-breads, topped with sauteed seasonal vegetables.  It also really whips your turkey sandwich into place.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Pumpkin Spice Bars

This recipe and I go way back.  It comes from my elementary school cafeteria!  I liked these so much in kindergarten that my mom asked for the recipe so that she could make them at home.  I bet that none of you liked the school cafeteria food that much!

These are very easy to make, and yield a tender, cakey bar.  You can add raisins or walnuts to them, but I like them plain and simple.  A confectioner's sugar glaze or a streusel topping might also be a good addition.  As for me, I am desperate to add in a few chocolate chips.  Everything is better with chocolate, right?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Roasted Pear and Apple Sauce

This dish is so, so, so much more than your regular stove-top applesauce.  I really couldn't get enough of it!  The pears and apples are a wonderful combination, and are so well complemented by a little citrus zest, a little brown sugar, and cinnamon.  The overall flavor tastes rich and incredibly well balanced.  I tasted it, and then I cussed because it was so good!

My husband tasted it, and said that it was "pretty good."  Hmph, what does he know?

This is very easy to make, especially if you're going to be in the kitchen or around the house doing other things.  It can be served hot, at room temperature, or cold.  I served it as a side to a vegetarian entree, but it would also be a great complement to roasted chicken or to some sausage.  It would also be lovely as dessert, topped with a little whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

And it makes a delicious snack...which I would know about, because it's gone already!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad

This is a very simple dish, and a little bit retro.  It's the kind of thing I've only every seen in Jewish style delis or in diner salad bars, sitting next to the carrot raisin salad.  Really, this dish is closer to a quick refrigerator pickle.  My husband, who hates cucumbers, admitting to kind of liking this.  It's quick and easy -- just be sure to make it ahead so that the cucumbers and onions absorb the maximum amount of flavor.