Friday, September 30, 2011

Fall Entertaining Part 2: A Vegetarian Rosh Hashanah Feast

L'Shana Tova!  Here's the menu we picked and served for a vegetarian meal for four, mid-afternoon, post synagogue attendance.

Nibbles and Noshes:  Dried cranberries, dried apples, and Tam Tam crackers
Main Dish: Chickpeas and Rice with Spinach, served with plain yogurt and feta cheese for garnish
Accompaniments: Round challah bread
                                 Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad (recipe coming soon)
                                 Roasted Pear and Apple Sauce (recipe coming soon)
                                 Warm Whole Wheat Pita
                                 Chickpea, Sunflower Seed, and Oregano Hummus (recipe coming soon)
Dessert: Honey Cake and Pomegranate Trifles

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Apple Muffins

These are simple, wholesome muffins, packed with chunks of fresh apples.  I am a huge fan of muffins, but usually I end up eating them alone.  My husband liked these so much though that I actually had to share the leftovers!  They are good and filling to eat for breakfast with a piece of fruit.  My usual complaint about muffins is that after I eat one, I'm hungry an hour later.  So I consider these quite a success!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Rosh Hashanah

I haven't settled yet on my menu for Rosh Hashanah, but I wanted to share with you some of the things that I'm considering.  We're serving a late lunch/early dinner after services on Thursday, and I might even go vegetarian (which, in our family, rarely garners a complaint).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

White Bean and Bacon Soup with Mediterranean Croutons

Here is the perfect meal for a chilly, rainy autumn night.  This slow-cooker soup is warm and creamy, with a delicious smokiness from the bacon.  You can get it into your slow cooker in 10 minutes before you leave for work in the morning, and come home to a delicious, home made belly warming soup with very little further effort.

I've adapted this (a little) from another great slow cooker cookbook from Beth Hensperger.  I love her contemporary slow cooker recipes!  This one is from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Recipes for Two, but we got a good four servings out of it.  I decided to puree it, because I love creamy bean soups.  With an immersion blender, it takes only 5 minutes.  If you don't have an immersion blender already, you have to get one!  You will love it!  I added the croutons for a little crunchy topping, and they were a wonderful addition.

I used my smaller slow cooker here -- not my large, new fancy one.  Slow cookers function better when they are 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full, and as this is a smaller recipe, it is best suited to a smaller slow cooker.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Molasses Ginger Cookies

There are so many delicious fall flavors out there, and boy are they out there.  Everywhere I turn, I see pumpkin and apple flavored treats, and I've been sure to indulge.  Sweet apple topping on my frozen yogurt at my favorite ice cream shop, an apple cider donut at the donut shop, pumpkin coffee at the coffee shop...there is no shortage.

But it's a little too easy to focus on pumpkins and apples, and to forget about some of their important sidekicks: ginger and molasses.  In these soft, chewy cookies, molasses and ginger take center stage, with the warm, intense flavor of molasses and a double dose of ginger, from ginger powder and chopped crystallized ginger.
Some people around here claimed the flavor in these cookies was a little too strong, but some people also have been nevertheless seen with their hands poking back into the cookie jar.  (Only then did I confess to having accidentally been a little heavy handed with the ginger powder.)  I think they are perfect.  And they are so deliciously chewy, which is my favorite cookie texture.  Leave yours in the oven a little longer if you like a crisp cookie.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fall Entertaining Part 1: A Family Sunday Brunch

We have lots of entertaining plans this fall.  I love entertaining.  What can I say?  I had a subscription for Martha Stewart Living when I was 15, and I loved every issue.

I thought it would be fun to keep track of some of my menus, and it's helpful for me to have them to plan for future events.

This was a cozy brunch for four, very impromptu.  We served:

-- Apple Cider
-- Sliced Watermelon
-- Apple Muffins (recipe coming soon)
-- Buckwheat Pancakes (from a mix), with apple butter, maple syrup, and honey
-- French-style Scrambled Eggs with Mediterranean Herbs
-- Molasses Ginger Cookies (recipe coming soon)
-- Caramel Apples (store-bought)

I think that the biggest hit was actually the eggs, and I am sorry to say there was not much of a recipe involved.  I make them the way the Barefoot Contessa does in Barefoot in Paris, and I've done so often enough that I don't use a recipe.  It's scrambled eggs, after all -- just a bit of this and a bit of that.  This is pretty much the technique ... low and slow, and I cook them until they resemble risotto.   I tossed in a piece of Laughing Cow cheese in Garlic & Herb, but didn't tell my husband because he would not have loved the eggs so much if he knew there was creamy cheese in them!  I also threw in some of one of my favorite products in the world: McCormick's Perfect Pinch.  I love, love, love those herb and spice blends, and now am crushing on the Mediterranean blend.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thai Chicken Pizza

This is one of our favorite twists on pizza night -- Thai Chicken Pizza!  It's like a combination of thai take-out and pizza delivery...but it's cheaper, fresher, healthier, and doesn't take all that long to get on the table.

I've adapted this recipe (slightly) from a great book: EatingWell On a Budget.  I love Eating Well magazine and especially love their cookbooks, but I think that this one might be my favorite.  It offers healthy, budget friendly, quick meal solutions.  Really, what more can you ask from a cookbook?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Coconut Chicken Fingers

Here is another great recipe from Liz Weiss and Janice Newell Bissex's book, No Whine With Dinner.  These chicken fingers are so much better than anything you'd pick up at a fast food restaurant.  They're moist with a crispy, coconut coating, and fresh.  What beats relatively guiltless comfort food?

For kids or for a game-watching crowd, these would be great on their own or with a dipping sauce -- try this one.  For a nice grown-up dinner, they're great served over greens with orange segments and pineapple cubes with a little apricot-soy vinaigrette.

Monday, September 12, 2011

"S'mores" Fudge

Here's a fun way to take a favorite summer flavor with you into fall.  What's more -- this is so quick to make!  The generous addition of marshmallows and graham cracker really lightens things up a bit, and keeps this fudge from being as cloying as some of the others out there.  This is great to share!  I brought some in to school today for the teachers for the first day of school, and brought home an extra container.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sneak Peek at Next Week

Here's what we have planned for next week:

-- Grilled Apple Salad with Cheese and Bacon Crumbles
-- Quinoa and Cranberry Protein Plate
-- Thai Chicken Pizza
-- Chickpeas with Rice

Have I ever shared this with you?  It's from Real Simple Magazine, and is my favorite tool for organizing my trips to the grocery store.  I downloaded it and printed off a bunch of copies.  I plug in my weekly meal plan, and then write down the ingredients that I need by category.  It makes trips through the grocery store so much quicker, because I don't have to backtrack five times to the produce section because I forgot something!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Luau Chicken

Here's a great little recipe to get you back into the swing of things, now that September is in full swing, packed with long days and hectic schedules.  You can put it up in your slow cooker in the morning with very little effort.  When you come home, there are just few odds and ends to take care of while you put up some brown rice or noodles, and then, ta da, you have dinner.  Not just dinner, but dinner with Hawaiian flavors.  I'd like to think that Hawaii has very little to do with long days and hectic schedules.  Please don't tell me otherwise.

Do check out this recipe, and furthermore, check out the cookbook that it comes from, No Whine With Dinner, by Liz Weiss and Janice Newell Bissex.  So, you can see from the title that this a book meant for people with kids.  And there is still a cook here, a dishwasher, way too many cookbooks, and entirely no kids.  But there are people with little time and people who are picky eaters and people who like kid food.  And that makes this book perfect for us.  Furthermore, all of the recipes in this book are healthful and include nutrition information.  It's definitely a keeper!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Soupe au Pistou (Provencal Vegetable Soup)

Here is the perfect soup for September: warm, and yet packed with the flavors of summer.  It is a vivid yellow in color, thanks to a healthy dose of saffron.  Saffron and chicken broth were just made for each other, and the taste is warm and sunny and just slightly sweet.  It is a delicious vehicle for late summer vegetables, and besides the fresh green beans, you would be wise to toss in zucchini or summer squash.  The pistou is a French pesto -- no pine nuts, just some good olive oil, basil, and garlic with a little tomato to deepen the flavor.  I could really eat that pistou up all by myself, but it is heavenly enough swirled into the soup, and then dolloped on top before serving to warrant some self-restraint.  Also, my jeans have been getting tight recently.

In college, I was a French major, and spent a wonderful six months studying in Provence.  And when I say studying, I mean shopping in open-air markets for the world's freshest produce, drinking kir royale, and train-hopping around Europe when possible.  It was warm and sunny every day and the mangoes were always so ripe that they dripped down my hand when I bit greedily into them.  I had this soup twice, that I remember.  The first time, I confess, was from a box, and was by far the best soup that I've ever had from a box.  The second time I had it was in the most wonderful little seaside town, Cassis, where I had gone to study for my  French poetry class on the beach.  You should only ever study French poetry on the beach.  My friends and had a long lunch in the sun, started with a bottle of white wine and soupe au pistou.  What is it about the feeling of being in the sun all day and then the cool and warming sensation of a fabulous bottle of white wine?  In yoga classes, when they tell me to imagine a relaxing, joyful place, I always think of that moment, on the beach in Cassis, with the sun and the white wine.

And the soup.  Oh the soup.  This recipe is strikingly close, though in Cassis I had it served with topped with croutes and spoonfuls of rouille (which is traditionally the way bouillabaisse is served).  It makes a lovely light supper.  I served it tonight with melon slices, whole grain bread and butter, tiny ice cream sandwiches and a table full of family.  It was a new lovely moment.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Multigrain Banana Streusel Muffins

If there is one thing you don't know about me, it's that, in spite of the wonderful variety of recipes I've shared here...I am a total creature of habit.  Throughout the four years that I was in high school, I ate a peanut butter banana sandwich for lunch every single day, without fail.  When my mom got sick of making the same sandwich every single day, I took over.  And now...well, I eat some form of a peanut butter and banana sandwich for breakfast about 8 days out of 10.  Sure, I've grown a little -- now I wrap up in a whole grain tortilla or put it on left over pita.  But I am very, very loyal to this sandwich.  (I have not yet tried it fried, though I hear this was Elvis's favorite.)

So when I saw that this muffin recipe(from the special Fall Baking issue of Better Homes and Gardens), I knew that it wouldn't be long before I tried it.  And it wasn't!  These are great muffins, with a great combination of flavors: a very subtle hint of banana, the tang of the buttermilk, the sweet and salty taste of the peanut butter, and finally, the crunchy warm cinnamon streusel topping.  But, the best thing about them, in my opinion, is how filling they are.  It is a rare muffin that holds me over until lunch (in spite of some of the jumbo muffins out there in the world), but these really do the trick.  I have to imagine that the whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, and healthy fat and protein from the peanut butter help.  

All I have to say, really, is that these muffins have me cheating on my regular breakfast big time.  Please don't tell the bananas!  

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sneak Peek at Next Week

I've already got my meals planned for next week!  Here is what we're looking forward to:

-- Soup au Pistou
-- Coconut Chicken Fingers
-- Luau Chicken with Pineapple and Carrots
-- Fried Eggs and "Refried" Beans Burritos

Meanwhile, I have tomorrow off and am looking forward to doing a little baking, but I haven't decided yet what to bake!  Any good ideas or inspiration?  Then we are going to upstate NY on Saturday for a little overnight getaway.  Aren't holiday weekends the best?