Friday, December 30, 2011

Homemade Cranberry Sauce with Apple and Pear

I would like to share with you two of the Christmas gifts I received this year.  The first, has to go on record as one of the worst Christmas gifts I've ever gotten!  My family drew names this year, and my father got me.  Among the gifts I got from him that I did enjoy, he also gave me his cold.  I haven't been sick in over a year, so I was a little cocky... I thought I'd be fine -- my immune system's usually pretty strong, so I thought I'd brush this one off.  Not so much.  I spent all day yesterday in my pyjamas and only was out of bed maybe an hour or so.  Today I'm feeling as if I'm coming out of the fog, but I'm still nowhere near normal.  On the plus side, it means I didn't have to work this week!

In contrast to that, I was planning on blogging to show you one of the gifts I had received that I did enjoy.  My coworker, Pam, made each of us homemade cranberry sauce in jars with cute little labels on them with the recipe.  Pam has a small business called Little Prints, making labels for chocolates, Christmas gifts, gift tags, things like that.

I love this gift!  Not only am I touched to be thought of, but this cranberry sauce is delicious!  And with the recipe, I can easily repeat it to make more later.  Can you say perfect?!  I was thrilled!  It almost makes up for the lost days with this cold!  Although, in all fairness, Dad did get sick too, so I can't complain too much.

Cranberry Sauce with Apple and Pear
Makes: ?

Ingredients:
5 3-inch cinnamon sticks
8 whole allspice berries
8 whole cloves
6 cups fresh cranberries 
2 1/4 cups orange juice
4 Gala apples, peeled and diced
4 Bosc pears, peeled and diced
3 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar

Directions:
Place cinnamon, allspice and cloves into a cheesecloth sachet.  Place sachet into a large saucepan with cranberries and orange juice.  Bring to a boil over high heat and cook until berries begin to burst, about 10 minutes.
Stir in apples, pears, and sugars.  Return to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer about 25 minutes until apples and pears are slightly soft. Remove sachet.

Chill in bowl overnight or store in jars.

Serve cold.

Enjoy!
 Source: Pam Tripp, Little Prints, Ottawa, Ontario.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hearty Chicken Salad

Happy Boxing Day :)

I had a wonderful Christmas!  And I get to do it all over again tomorrow!  I had a quiet little Christmas yesterday with Mom, Dad, and my youngest sister, and tomorrow we're meeting again for a 'real' Christmas with my other sister and her new guy.  It should be fun -- more traditional for our family -- turkey, lights, drinks, and euchre.  Oh, and the puzzle!  My sis and I stared on a 1000-piece wolf-shaped puzzle last night.  We're nowhere near finished!!

After weeks of parties, treats, and Christmas-focused traditions, I thought I'd take a little break today.  I made a healthy, tasty, very non-Christmas-themed lunch salad.  It's tangy,  sweet, sour, and crunchy.  A great break!

Hearty Chicken Salad
Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:
4 5-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3 tbsp plus 1/4 cup lemon juice, divided
1/2 tsp sea salt, divided
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper, divided
olive oil cooking spray
1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek-yogurt
2 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
8 oz fresh baby spinach
1/2 red onion, cut into paper-thin wedges
1/2 cup pomegranate arils
1 oz shelled raw unsalted pistachios
1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced

Directions:
In a large, shallow bowl, add chicken and 3 tbsp lemon juice.  Turn to coat.  Sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt, cayenne, and 1/2 tsp black pepper on all sides of chicken, dividing evenly.  Set aside.

Place a ridged grill pan on medium-high heat and mist with cooking spray.  Add chicken and grill, turning once, until cooked through, about five minutes per side.  If necessary, work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.  Transfer to a cutting board and set aside until cool enough to handle, about five minutes.  Cut each chicken breast crosswise into thin slices.

Meanwhile,  prepare dressing: in a small bowl, whisk remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, yogurt, oil, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp black pepper.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss spinach, onion, pomegranate and pistachios and divide among serving plates.  Top with chicken and avocado and drizzle with dressing, dividing evenly.  Serve immediately.
Enjoy!

Source: Jan/Feb 2012 Clean Eating magazine, p. 43.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thai Black Rice Salad with Salmon

Tonight I take a little break from all the Christmas baking I've been showing off, to showcase a recipe I've been dying to try ever since my new issue of Clean Eating arrived last week.  This salad was the first thing I tagged as a must-make when I flipped open the magazine.  It's every bit the flavour-packed meal it promises to be... and if I hadn't swapped out the red pepper for the green one, it'd be as much a colourful delight for the eyes.

In all honesty, this meal is a bit slow to prepare, and is a definite mess.  But with fresh spices, mango, onions, and honey, it was all over the map with great flavours that definitely do not say Christmas, it's easy to excuse the mess!  It was a welcome treat and a nice finish to my very busy day. (I love being busy at work, it makes the days until Christmas pass quicker!)

Thai Black Rice Salad with Salmon
Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:
1 cup Black Forbidden rice (I used long grain brown rice)
pinch sea salt, plus additional to taste
1/4 cup natural rice vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
juice from 2 limes
3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp raw honey
2 tsp sesame oil
8 oz boneless, skinless wild salmon, cut into 2-oz fillets
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1 red pepper, diced (I used green)
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh mint, plus whole leaves for garnish
4 green onions
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
olive oil cooking spray
4 Tbsp raw unsalted slivered almonds or chopped peanuts

Directions:
Combine rice, 2 cups cold water, and pinch of sea salt in a medium pot.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender 25 - 30 minutes.  Remove from heat and invert rice onto a baking sheet, using fork to spread out.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, lime juice, soy sauce, honey, and sesame oil.  In a large resealable bag, add salmon and 1/3 cup dressing.  Seal and gently turn bag to coat; refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine mango, bell pepper, cilantro, mint, and onions.  Add rice and remaining dressing.  Toss to coat and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and refrigerate as needed.

Heat a large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray.  Remove salmon from bag, discarding marinade.  Add salmon to skillet and cook, turning once, until flesh flakes easily when tested with a fork, about 4 minutes.  Remove from pan, transfer to a plate and set aside until completely cooled.  Spoon mango-rice mixture into serving bowls and top with salmon and almonds, dividing evenly.

Enjoy!
Source: Clean Eating Magazine, Jan/Feb 2012 p. 64.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Butterscotch Ice Cream

Last week was my mother's birthday.  Mom, being a typical mom, asked for a typically non-selfish gift.  She asked for new flannel bedsheets for their bed.  Not very exciting, but practical, and shared.  I tried to bring her something a little more exciting, despite the fact that she'd be sharing it.  I found a mouthwateringly delicious-sounding recipe from The Perfect Scoop with my brownies-gone-bad from a while ago.  They're not really bad, just not solid enough to be used as cake-base.  Maybe the next time I make them I'll line the pan with parchment and see if that helps?

This recipe I made a couple of weeks ahead of needing it for Mom's birthday, but being ice cream, it stood up quite well.  It survived beautifully in my freezer!  ... I doubt I can say the same for Mom's!  In a little over a week, we'll all be gathered together enjoying Christmas dinner at the farm, with the goodies left over from my at-work Christmas cookie exchange a few weeks ago and all the other Christmas fixings.

Oh! I forgot to tell you: even though I've been saying all year I didn't think I'd get a tree (cats couldn't handle it, I thought) I did get a tree this year and knock on wood it's surviving quite well!  They were curious about it the first day, but since then aside from one ball being banged around a bit in the night, the tree's virtually being ignored.  I'm almost tempted to put my wrapped gifts underneath it... almost!

Butterscotch Ice Cream with Butterscotch Brownie Bits
Makes: about 1 1/4 quarts

Ingredients:
5 Tbsp unsalted butter (70g)
3/4 cup Sucanat
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp scotch whiskey

Directions:
Melt the butter in a medium saucepan set over medium heat. Once melted, whisk in the Sucanat and sea salt.
Stir in 1 cup of the heavy cream, and the whole milk.
Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream in a mixing bowl with a fine mesh sieve set over the top.

Place the egg yolks in a separate medium mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg yolks.
Whisking constantly, slowly add the warm sugar-cream mixture to the egg yolks to temper. Continue until all of the liquid has been incorporated.
Return the mixture to the saucepan over medium heat.
Continue to heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens slightly and reaches 170-175˚ F on an instant-read thermometer. 
Immediately remove from the heat and pour through the sieve and into the bowl with the cream.
Stir in the vanilla.
Cover the bowl and transfer to the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled. (To speed chilling, stir over an ice bath.)

Once the mixture is completely chilled, freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions, gently folding in the brownie bits at the end until evenly incorporated.
 Transfer to a freezer-safe container.
Freeze until firm.

Enjoy!

Source(s): slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop, Crumbs and Cookies.

***************************
One small addition...  Can you see where my cat is hiding?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Basil-Mushroom Pizza

This week's been busy.  Two Christmas parties, a catch-up with friends, my cake decorating class, and now Mom's birthday visit.  The busy weeks seem to fly by!  Since I'll be too busy tonight to share my meal with you, I'm cheating a bit and showing lunch.  It's cheating, because only half is a new recipe.  This pizza, is made using a fresher batch of the pizza dough I showed a few months ago.

Really, it's simple, and turns out fantastically!

Basil-Mushroom Pizza
Makes: 1 individual pizza

Ingredients:
1/6th of the pizza dough (1 ball) [if using frozen, defrost overnight in the fridge]
2 Tbsp pizza sauce
1 oz pizza mozzarella
6 fresh basil leaves
2 mushrooms, sliced

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450 F.  At the same time, remove pizza dough from fridge and let it warm to room temperature on the counter top (about 10 minutes).


Knead your dough, using cornmeal instead of whole wheat flour this time.  Place it on parchment so it doesn't stick to the pizza stone (optional).
Spread pizza dough with sauce, mushrooms, basil, and cheese.
Bake pizza on pizza stone for 15 - 18 minutes.  Remove from oven, serve with a salad and enjoy!
Source: adapted from Best of Clean Eating Magazine.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Chewy Peanut Butter Gingersnaps

My sisters came to visit this weekend, and since one's a baker as well, we got to talking, and comparing cookies.  She's got a chocolate chip recipe that has cream cheese in it that supposedly is to die for, so I'll have to find the time to test that one out.  Yeah, time, and a recipient! After all the goodies everyone's eating this month, I'll be running out of people to give mine to.

Anyway, between her studying, and the Christmas party I attended Saturday night, we found time to do a little baking ourselves.  She was craving a gingerbread cookie, but every recipe I know needs to be refrigerated, and we were short on time.  So, I remembered this well-loved, much-used recipe for peanut butter ginger cookies.  They're not really snaps because they're chewy -- and ooey-gooey-good!  This is one recipe that's easy to make, but also easy to mess up.  Don't substitute margarine, or put them on a warm cookie sheet, or bake for more or less time than indicated.  The recipe says to grease the pans, but I never had any luck with that.  I use Silpat or parchment paper all the time with them now.

These cookies are one of my favourites... my only real criticism is that the recipe makes so few.  They disappear quickly, and make the house smell amazing!  I'm experimenting a bit with the recipe to clean it up, like subbing out the white flour for white whole wheat, table salt for sea salt, and the brown sugar for Sucanat, and skipping entirely on rolling the cookies in the white sugar-cinnamon mix.  So far the substitutions haven't been an issue.  One thing though, is that you really, really need to use commercial peanut butter.  I switched it out for the natural no-salt/no-sugar kind once and had a total flop with the recipe.

I'm happy my sisters were visiting.  I get so distracted making new recipes all the time that I forget that some were staples before because they are so darn good!  If I hadn't had visitors this weekend, I never would've made this gem and been reminded.

Chewy Peanut Butter Gingersnaps
Makes: 25 cookies

Ingredients:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (I used white whole wheat)
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp ground cinnamon, divided (just 1 if making the clean version)
1/4 tsp each ground ginger, and sea salt
1/8 tsp ground allspice
1/4 cup white sugar (omit for clean version)
1/3 cup light peanut butter
3 tbsp butter, softened (must be butter!  If salted, omit the sea salt)
1 cup packed brown sugar (I used Sucanat)
1 egg
1 tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350.  Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flours, baking soda, 1 tsp cinnamon, ginger, salt, and allspice.  Set aside.

In another medium bowl, beat together peanut butter, butter, and brown sugar on medium speed of an electric mixer (or LOW on a stand mixer) for about 1 minute.  Add egg, molasses, and vanilla.  Beat again until smooth.

Using a wooden spoon, stir flour mixture into peanut butter mixture.  You will be making a stiff dough.  Using your hands (or a small ice cream scoop), shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls.  [If making the regular version of this recipe, mix remaining 2 tsp cinnamon with white sugar in a small bowl.  Roll each ball in the cinnamon sugar mixture.]  Place each ball on a prepared cookie sheet, spaced 2 inches apart.  They spread a lot while baking.  You can flatten cookies slightly with a fork, but really, it's not necessary.

Bake cookies for 7 minutes.  They may appear undercooked, but that's okay.   Remove cookies from the oven and immediately transfer from pan to a wire rack to cool.  This is where the parchment/Silpat comes in handy!
Enjoy!

Source: Eat, Shrink, & Be Merry, page 168, "Girl-Guy Cookies" by Janet & Greta Podleski.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut Crispy Balls

It's definitely December!  This week, I made molasses crinkles for a Christmas cookie exchange at work, and pumpkin cream cheese muffins for today's bake sale.  Then there was my section's group Christmas lunch.  This weekend's a Christmas party with a bunch of my friends, and next week's our directorate Christmas party and Mom's birthday.  Add to that my cake decorating course is back in my weekly rotation, and my workouts, and my weekend walking group... yup, definitely December madness.  Good thing I'm done my Christmas shopping!  I think I'll be happy for the calm the new year brings.

Remember the energy bars I made for my workouts?  They're awesome! I'd still recommend them highly -- they do exactly what they promise to do -- but I'm always on the lookout for new things, right?  I decided to try these chocolate hazelnut crispy bars -- as a new workout snack.  But reading the recipe, it suggested making balls out of it instead, and really, balls are much more portable.  Plus, the hazelnut and chocolate in them really have the feel of Ferrero Rocher treats, so I feel like I'm treating myself after each workout.  Who wouldn't love that?!

This recipe I actually made a few weeks ago, and am only now getting around to posting it.  I told you I've been busy!  So I've been preserving the balls by freezing them.  They're surviving fine.  I pull one out of the freezer on the way to the gym, and by the time I'm done my workout it's thawed and ready for me.

Since making this recipe, I discovered I absolutely love hazelnut butter.  I was hesitant to try it before, since it's quite expensive, and I was afraid I wouldn't like it, but yum! I definitely do like it.  I recommend you treat yourself today.  If you like natural nut butters, this one's worth the money. 

Chocolate Hazelnut Crispy Balls
Makes: 24 balls

Ingredients:
1/4 cup unsalted raw hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cups unsweetened brown rice cereal
3/4 cup rolled oats
2 1/2 oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa or greater), chopped into chunks (75 g or 1/3 cup + 2 Tbsp)
1 cup unsweetened dried pitted dates (Medjool or honey), pureed until smooth
1/2 cup unsalted hazelnut butter or your favourite unsalted natural nut butter
2 Tbsp raw honey

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl, add hazelnuts, cereal, and oats and stir until combined.  Set aside.
Melt chocolate in a medium bowl over a double boiler.  Remove bowl from double boiler and, using a wooden spoon, add pureed dates, hazelnut butter, and honey to the melted chocolate.  Carefully stir until combined.  As mixture stiffens, set bowl over double boiler again as needed.
Add the chocolate mixture to the bowl with the cereal mixture and, using a wooden spoon, fold in until thoroughly combined.
Shape into 24 balls, with approximately 1 1/2 Tbsp mixture in each.  Refrigerate 30 minutes to one hour to allow mixture to set.  Balls can be kept covered in the fridge 3-5 days. (I've learned they'll survive fine longer than that in the freezer.)
The recipe suggests serving them with low-fat plain yogurt sweetened with raw honey.  I haven't tried it myself, but it sounds like it'd go well.

Enjoy!

Source:  Best of Clean Eating Magazine, page 218.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Molasses Crinkles

Tomorrow's a cookie exchange at work.  Tomorrow I have to bring five dozen cookies, in packages of four, to divide between my coworkers in exchange for their delights.  I'm excited! And a little afraid.  Some of them are bakers, like I am, and some, very much aren't.  But, such is life, yes?  I'll have lots of goodies to freeze and save for Christmas dinner and the many parties in between.

If I only needed one or two dozen, I'd probably have made something fancier, but for bulk cookies, Hershey's Molasses Crinkles have yet to let me down.  They're easy, taste great, and make five dozen even without doubling the recipe.  Perfect!

The recipe was even easy enough I could make it up, wash the dishes, bag the cookies and blog it all in one night!  What could be easier than that?

Molasses Crinkles
Makes:  approximately 60 cookies

Ingredients:
2 1/4 cup whole wheat flour*
2 tsp baking soda
1 cup Sucanat
3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
1 2/3 cups (10 oz bag) Reese's Peanut Butter chips

Directions:
Stir together the flour and baking soda. 
Beat together the butter and sugar. 
Add in the egg and molasses, beating until smooth.  Stir the flour into the butter mixture and add in the peanut butter chips. 
Cover and refrigerate one hour.
 Heat oven to 350F.  Line cookie sheets with parchment or silpat.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls.  Place onto prepared cookie sheets.
Bake cookies 8-10 minutes. 
Remove immediately from cookie sheets onto wire rack to cool completely.
Enjoy!
* I used my regular whole wheat flour because I was out of the white whole wheat... I don't plan to do this again... the substitution is too obvious, so I'll wait for a refill on my white whole wheat!

Source: adapted from Hershey's Recipe Collection.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Chicken Almondine

I made an absolute delight tonight.  I even surprised myself with how good it was!   I picked it thinking it would be a ho-hum easy dinner for a Sunday night.  I was hoping for an easy meal to finish up the weekend of baking and cleaning.  I've been preparing for two work events this week:  a cookie exchange and a bake sale.  What a surprise I got with this one!

I love it when recipes turn out better than I expect.  This one's easily going to be added to my regular rotation because the whole thing whips up quickly and requires only a few ingredients that I typically have around home.  The only thing I have to remember to do is defrost my chicken breasts... see, easy-peasy.

This meal was a nice finish to my weekend.  I cleaned, vacuumed, did my laundry, cooked supper, and hung out this afternoon listening to the new Eli Young Band album (check out the Falling)... really, just a cozy, relaxed finish to my weekend.  Just perfection!  Enjoy :)

Chicken Almondine
Makes: 3 or 4 servings

Ingredients:
1/8 cup slivered unsalted almonds
1/8 cup ground almonds
1 Tbsp whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp paprika
sea salt & black pepper to taste
1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, divided into 3 or 4 pieces (pounded thin works best)
olive oil cooking spray
1 lb fresh green beans
2-3 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Directions:
Mix together the ground almonds, whole wheat flour, salt, pepper, and paprika in a flat, shallow dish.  Dredge chicken breasts in the mixture and set aside.

Boil water and steam the green beans.

Heat a skillet on medium-high heat.  Add the oil, then the chicken.  Turn the chicken after a few minutes and cook until no longer pink in the middle.
 Beans and chicken should be ready close to the same time.  
 Remove the beans from the heat and mix together with the lemon juice and zest.
Serve beans and chicken together, topped with remaining almonds.
Enjoy!

Source:  Best of Clean Eating Magazine, page 69.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Wilton Royal Icing

I meant to post this a few weeks ago, when I made Jeff's cookies, but I got distracted making lots of great new things and forgot.  So, while I'm killing time tonight, I thought I'd squeeze it in!

Royal icing is great! It's easy to make, easy to use, and there are tons of great tutorials all over the web, like this one, this one or this one.  I followed the steps there, and the cookies turned out great!  The biggest lesson learned is that I need to practice before actually icing the cookies -- the best ones are the ones I did last.  But, like anything, I learn as I go and improve as I go, so the next batch will be even better, I'm sure.  It's encouraging at least!

My recipe differs a little from some of the others floating around, and for these cookies I made only a half-batch, (since I only made a half-batch of cookies) and it was still way more than I needed.  Regardless, it's better to have too much than too little, and the leftovers were put to good use: I made little designs on wax paper to be used later as sprinkles or cupcake toppers.

I decided upon the Wilton recipe for Royal Icing since I had made Wilton's sugar cookies, and since the cake decorating class I'm following is Wilton.  I've got them on the brain, I guess, but really any recipe should turn out more or less the same, provided you follow the steps in the tutorials.  The only thing I'd change were I to do it again with the stand mixer, is to add another teaspoon of water in to thin the first batch (the writing icing) -- it was a little too thick and burst through the piping bag.  It was also hard on my hands to use.  So, with a little bit more water, I'm sure it'd work better.  I just wouldn't try with too much more water than that because if it's too thin I really can't pipe with it!

Wilton Royal Icing
Makes: about 3 cups of icing*

Ingredients:
3 Tbsp Meringue Powder
1 pound (about 4 cups) powdered sugar
6 Tbsp warm water
icing colour

Directions:
Add all ingredients to your mixing bowl.
Beat all ingredients until icing forms peaks (7-10 minutes at LOW speed with a stand mixer, 10-12 minutes at HIGH speed with a hand-held mixer.)
 At this point, I took out half of it because I wanted some to be white, and dyed the rest pink for Jeff's cookies.  You can find a tutorial here.
After that, I packed up the colours in AIR TIGHT containers for the night, and left the icing job for the next day.  I did it only because it was getting to be late at night and the icing can take a long time, but really it's a good idea because the colours tend to intensify the longer the icing sits... I ended up adding a drop of white-white into the pink to tone down the intensity, that's why the border of the pink and the filling of the pink don't match in colour.  Wilton offers white-white colour so that your white icing is white on the cookies, and not transparent.  Whether you use it or not depends on how picky you are with your white!
Notes from Wilton:   
  • Keep all utensils completely grease-free for proper icing consistency.
  • For stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
  • When using large counter top mixer or for stiffer icing, use 1 tablespoon less water.
Thinned Royal Icing: To thin for pouring, add 1 teaspoon water per cup of royal icing. Use grease-free spoon or spatula to stir slowly. Add 1/2 teaspoon water at a time until you reach proper consistency.
 * I'm providing the whole recipe, but I halved it and was fine.  Adjust as you see fit.

Source: Recipe & notes, Wilton.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Asparagus Primavera

Today at work the email went out advising of the game plan for my division's apparently annual Christmas cookie exchange.  So I've been trying to remember my best cookie recipes all day, trying to figure out which one will give me the required five dozen to bring in.  All that cookie planning made me hungry!  Since I'm out for lunch tomorrow - a retirement lunch for my former manager - and craving cookies, I tried to eat healthier tonight.  Because life's about balance, right?

This recipe caught my attention because it's different from any of my standbys.  It's not often I'd pick couscous.  It's just not one of those things that occurs to me to make.  Plus, this dish isn't really a warm dish or a cold dish -- it's both.  But loads of veggies do speak to me, and I enjoy beans, so I gave it a whirl.  This one turned out to be a real treat for the senses -- it's kind of pretty for a supper...  I just should have used a bigger plate!

Asparagus Primavera
Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups dried whole-grain couscous
1 lb asparagus, rinsed and bottoms cut off
8 oz carrots, cut into short sticks
4 oz baby corn, cut into bite-size pieces
1 15 oz can of white beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups loosely packed spinach, cut into strips
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp orange juice
sea salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:
Boil 1 1/2 cups of water, stir in the couscous, and let it sit covered for 5 minutes.
 At the same time, boil another pot of water adding in the asparagus and carrots.  Simmer on low for 5 minutes, then drain.
 
In a large bowl, mix together the corn, beans, spinach, oil, vinegar, orange juice, salt, and pepper.
Add in the cooked asparagus and carrots.
Serve over the couscous.
Enjoy!

Source: slightly adapted from Best of Clean Eating Magazine, page 50.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Pasta Roll-Ups

This weekend has flown by! I swear, it was just Thursday five minutes ago!  I know what's been eating my time -- I've been busy! I went Christmas shopping with a friend, I've been cooking, cleaning, and doing my training walks.  I put up my Christmas lights (even though they won't be turned on until December), and I'm slowly getting some things checked off my to-do list that have been there for ages.

This recipe was one of those things.  I've had it on the list for ages, thinking 'oh maybe next weekend', or 'when I have more time', or another of a million excuses.  But after one bite, I'm sorry I waited so long.  This one's every bit as good as it looks.  If you don't believe my pictures, check these out!  I'm so inspired I've put more of the recipes from this book into my menu plan for this week, so stay tuned :)

I have a feeling December will go quickly.  I'm surprised yet again how we've gotten to the end of the year so fast!  It feels like it was just summer yesterday.  But I guess we all suffer from that a bit!  December has some great things to look forward to, even without counting Christmas.  This December I'm taking another cake decorating class, I'm participating in a bake sale at work, and a cookie exchange! That one I'm really excited about -- I'll get to show off some of my cookie favourites, and maybe try some new ones.

Here, as one of my last November recipes, let me show you this very tasty, comforting, easier-than-it-looks, ooey-gooey "not" lasagna. 

Pasta Roll-Ups
Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes in juice
1 tsp salt
8 sheets dried whole-wheat lasagna
1 10-oz box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 15-oz container nonfat ricotta cheese
1 egg
3/4 cup shredded reduced-fat mozzarella cheese

Directions:
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium. Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Turn heat to medium-high and add ground beef, cooking until meat shows no sign of pink. Stir in cinnamon and nutmeg, then add tomatoes and salt. Reduce heat to medium-low, stir, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes, occasionally stirring and breaking up tomatoes with a wooden spoon.
 Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse and allow to cool in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Squeeze all remaining moisture from thawed spinach and place in large bowl. Add ricotta cheese, egg and a 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese to bowl. Stir until combined.
 Spread 1 cup of cooked tomato sauce into bottom of a 9 x 10-inch casserole dish. Lay a cooked lasagna noodle flat in front of you. Use your fingers to spread 1/8 of ricotta mixture across the noodle and roll it up. Place the rolled pasta seam side down, into the casserole dish. Repeat with remaining noodles.
Spread remaining tomato sauce over roll-ups, then top with remaining 1/2 cup mozzarella
 Bake, covered with foil, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and broil for 5 minutes or until the rollups are browned and bubbly.
Notes:  Next time I make this one, I plan to use crushed tomatoes instead of the diced or whole tomatoes -- I think it will give the sauce a creamier texture. 

Also, I substituted ground beef for the ground turkey mentioned in the original recipe.  It's personal preference.  Do as you wish.

One tip from their website is to use leftover cooked turkey -- just chop it finely or run it through your food processor to chop it up to the right consistency for this recipe.
Enjoy!

Source: Best of Clean Eating Magazine.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Ricotta & Spinach Frittata

Today we got our first real snowfall of the season.  And commuters, as is tradition, panicked and forgot how to drive.  Ugg.  Made for a looong drive in.  In spite of me getting up early, I was at work almost at the normal time I'd be arriving in the morning.  The upside is that it'll all be gone by Friday, and it'll be back to warm-ish temperatures for my weekend walks.

Tonight I had planned on making something else for supper, but in light of the snow and slush and mess, I felt like having breakfast for supper.  This recipe is very easy and quick enough I could have made it for breakfast.  Served on a piece of toast, with a side dish of rice, or wrapped in a tortilla, it's easily fit into any meal of the day.

Ricotta & Spinach Frittata
Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:
8 egg whites (about 1 cup)
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cups baby spinach
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Pinch ground nutmeg
2/3 cup low-fat ricotta cheese

Directions:
 Preheat oven to 375°F.

In a medium bowl, whisk together egg whites, egg and skim milk until frothy; set aside.

Heat oil in a 10-inch nonstick frying pan on medium. Add garlic and onion and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add spinach to pan, in batches if necessary, and cook, stirring frequently, until wilted. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

Pour egg mixture into pan and drop ricotta by the tablespoonful over top.
 Cook for 3 minutes, until eggs begin to set on the bottom.
 Transfer pan to oven and bake for 8 minutes or until eggs are firm.
 Cut frittata into 4 wedges and serve immediately.
 Enjoy!

Source: Clean Eating Magazine. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Lemon Artichoke Chicken

Aside from baking a pie, and making cookies, (neither of which I ate!) I've been experimenting with non-dessert recipes in November.  Part of this is that I had made a lot of cakes in October, and I know I'll be making a lot more in December and January when I have the second and third cake courses.  That, on top of all the normal, ritual, holiday baking... In light of that I've been making an effort to go after my savory, main-course recipe wish list, rather than my dessert one.

A lot of my recipes come from other blogs, and, surprisingly, I have to admit, have been a bit of a letdown.  I've got a sweet tooth -- it's hard for me to get excited over some of these recipes.  Some don't look very nice, some were bland, some just didn't speak to me...  This one tonight didn't even have a picture.  I took a risk with it. I didn't have high hopes; I don't normally like artichoke.  But I figured it'd get me out of the same-old-same-old rut, so I tried it anyhow.  And I can tell you I'm glad I did! I was impressed with this one.  It's got a bit of sweet, a bit of sour, a little crunch, some chewy, and it's good for you!  What could beat that?  Get off your chair and make this one tonight !!

Lemon Artichoke Chicken
Makes:  4 servings

Ingredients:
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
fresh ground pepper to taste
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 pound thin chicken breast cutlets
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, cut lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 (14-oz) jar artichoke hearts, in water, drained and cut into sixths
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
parsley for garnish (optional)

Directions:
In a shallow bowl or plate, combine flour, oregano, pepper and salt.  Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour mixture, shaking off excess.  Place on another plate until ready to cook.

Coat a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray and heat on medium to medium-high heat.  Add chicken cutlets and cook 3-5 minutes per side until cooked through. (I had to cook longer because my chicken wasn't thin enough).  Transfer chicken to a clean serving plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Remove any excess flour from skillet.  Reduce heat to medium-low and heat oil.  Place onion in pan and cook, stirring frequently about 5-6 minutes until onion is soft and golden.  Add garlic, cooking one minute, stirring constantly.  Add broth bringing it to a simmer, followed by artichokes, lemon juice and zest.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes until heated through and sauce starts to thicken.  Season to taste with additional sea salt and pepper (optional).
Serve by pouring artichoke sauce over chicken cutlet.  Sprinkle with parsley if desired.

Enjoy!
Source: Best of Clean Eating Magazine, page 35.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Cancer Ribbon Cookies

On Friday, my friend Jeff became a changed man.  Jeff's been growing his hair out for the past three years with the intention of donating it to contribute toward a wig for a cancer patient, and Friday was the day it all came off.  Jeff's also been fundraising for his event, and got a few of his friends/family/co-workers to contribute. 

I know Jeff knows he's done a good thing, but the fact is, you get used to having long hair, and it can take a while to get used to it being gone.  I know personally, I cut off almost as much as Jeff did, about a year and a half ago.  To help ease his pain, and remind him he did a good thing, I've made Jeff a little surprise: cookies!  I know it'll make his day because Jeff's a big fan of my baking. :)

Cancer Ribbon Cookies for Jeff
Made: 24 cookies

I used  the second half of my usual sugar cookie recipe*, with a small tweak -- I used Sucanat instead of white sugar.  I don't know that I'll do that again... Sucanat stands out in this recipe by showing off little flecks of colour.  That in combination with the white whole-wheat flour... they don't look like traditional sugar cookies for sure!  Because it was a thawed recipe I also had to substitute the flour -- I'm out of the white whole-wheat, so I had to use my regular whole wheat flour, which has bran flake-looking things in it.  Not so nice for sugar cookies either!  So, lesson learned: don't mess with the traditional recipe!  Jeff will forgive me though, he's a good guy like that, hehe.

I lined baking sheets with parchment paper to keep the cookies from sticking.
So, I rolled and cut out my cookies. (See the flecks?  Ug-ly! Oh well...)
I baked the cookies at 400F for 6 minutes, and let them cool on racks.
I prepared the royal icing: one white recipe, and one pink**. I put the icing as quickly as possible into air-tight containers because that stuff dries quickly and goes rock-solid.

I had to escape to another room at this point to ice my cookies... my cats are too curious! They're afraid they'll miss out on something so they want to be involved in everything.  And since cat hair and cookies don't mix, I had to hide out.  If you have any ideas on how to get around this, please let me know.

I thinned the icing slightly (1 tsp water to each colour) to do the piping.  I piped outlines in white and in pink.
  
I'm still learning the technique, so I improved quite a bit by the time I got to the pink tray.

I let the piped cookies sit for an hour.  


I thinned the icing again, adding 1 tsp water and 1 tsp Wilton white-white icing colour to each.  My motivation for part of that was to calm the pink, and part was to brighten the white.
I left the tips in water to keep the icing from drying out.  You'll need to squeeze out the first little bit of icing away from the cookies when you re-start with them to account for that.

I filled squeeze bottles, and flooded the cookies. I used a toothpick to push the icing into the cracks, and let it dry for a few hours.
 Before / After drying.  Not much difference, only that it's matte now not glossy.

Once the icing was dried, I brushed on some petal dust -- for my fun, really.

Voila! Ribbon cookies for Jeff.

* See directions on original post for thawing and using the dough.  You'll need to knead it once it thaws!
**  I used pink because this weekend I'm thinking of a woman in my life who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, but you can use whatever colour has meaning for you.
 
P.S. If you'd like to contribute to Jeff's fundraising, you can do so here.  Thank you to all who do!!