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!!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Slow Cooker Porridge

A few weeks back I posted a recipe for baked oatmeal I'd made for breakfast.  I mentioned at the same time that it wasn't my stand-by recipe.  This one actually is.  It's flexible, filling, and really once you've stocked up on the basic ingredients, it doesn't take any time at all to put together.  I've switched up the dried fruits, experimented with different spices, added buckwheat kasha, really just used whatever was on hand.  The recipe has yet to disappoint.  And, the biggest perk for me is that I can prep it the night before and it's ready for breakfast.  I divide up the leftovers into single-serving containers and freeze whatever I won't eat in the next day or so.  That way I've got lots of variety in my breakfasts and no excuse not to eat a healthy breakfast.

One thing to note is that the recipe really, really means it when it instructs you to set the slow cooker at the lowest temperature setting.  On mine, it's the 'Keep Warm' setting.  Setting it to 'Low' overnight overdid it.  If you don't know with yours, you might be best to try it out during the day on a weekend, and check it half-way through the day to make sure it's not drying out.

Slow Cooker Porridge
Makes: 8 servings

Ingredients:
1/2 cup cracked wheat
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
1/2 cup rye flakes
1/2 cup brown rice (or buckwheat kasha)
1/4 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup milk
6 cups water
1/2 cup raisins (or dried apricots)
1/2 cup chopped dates (or dried currants)
1 1/2 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp nutmeg

Directions:
Mix together all ingredients in a 3-quart or larger slow cooker.
 Cook on lowest setting overnight.

 Stir and serve.
Enjoy!

Source: slightly adapted from The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Mushroom and Beef Stew

Another slow cooker installment!  Today was the last day of warm before the cold sets in.  I've been really enjoying the warmer-than-normal weather we've been having... I don't know that I'm ready to give it up yet!  I know, I know, we normally have snow by now, but I'm not ready.  Too bad I don't have the power to control it.

Today's meal is a new one for me.  It's beef stew with mushrooms.  I thought it would round out my slow cooker supper set quite well.  Chili, lentils, beans, and beef.  The Crock Pot book is really showing off its value.  I've loved each and every recipe I've made out of it so far.

This stew took a little longer on prep time than the soups, but mostly because I had to thaw and trim the meat instead of just chopping vegetables.  I did all the prep work at night before going to bed, so the recipe was ready for breakfast-time instead of trying to squeeze all of that work into my morning routine.  It was neat to wake up to a supper smell, and a little strange to not eat the stew right away.  Instead, I divided up the portions saving one for supper.  The rest went into the freezer for workday lunches.

Mushroom Beef Stew
Makes: 5 servings

Ingredients:
1 1/2 to 2 pounds beef stew, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 Tbsp whole-wheat flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp paprika
4 oz mushrooms, sliced
2 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium red potatoes, diced
1 small white onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced

Directions:
Place beef in slow cooker.  Mix together flour, salt, and pepper; sprinkle over beef.  Stir to coat each piece of beef with flour.
 Add remaining ingredients and stir to mix well.
Cover; cook on LOW 10 to 12 hours, or HIGH 4 to 6 hours. 
Stir stew before serving. (I actually don't have a picture of the final result... I was in too much of a hurry, I guess!)

Enjoy!

Source: slightly adapted from Crock Pot - The Original Slow Cooker - Recipe Collection p. 98.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Black Bean Soup with Lime

I'm almost afraid to say so, but I might have just finished my Christmas shopping tonight.  I say might because sometimes I see something when I'm out that just needs to be given to somebody in my life, and well, you can't plan for inspiration.  But, out of my planned shopping, I can stop as of tonight.  The rest of my gifts are homemade, because I think they say more that way.

In light of tonight being a shopping night, I'm blogging late.  Saved by the slow cooker, I guess.  The recipe I'm posting tonight is actually one I did up last week during my slow cooker kick but didn't have an opportunity to post it until now.  So, here, squeaked in before I call it a night, is a treat!  I really, really enjoyed this recipe.  It's creamy, warm, and has a delicious spice kick to make it anything but bland.  It'll be on my repeat list for sure!

Black Bean Soup with Lime
Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:
2 cans (15 oz each) black beans (low-sodium), undrained
1 can (14 oz) low-sodium chicken broth
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
3/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 medium lime, cut into wedges

Directions:
Add all ingredients to a slow cooker except for the lime. 
Cover and cook for 7 hours on LOW or 3 1/2 hours on HIGH or until onions are very soft.
 Process 1 cup of soup in a blender until smooth and return it to slow cooker. (I did this with an immersion blender.)
 Let soup stand 15 - 20 minutes before serving.
 Divide soup into 4 bowls and top with juice from lime wedge.

Source: Crock Pot - The Original Slow Cooker - Recipe Collection p. 64

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Raspberry Pie

For my friend John's birthday, he asked me to make him a raspberry pie.  I was delighted! I haven't had much experience with real pies, and this would be a great opportunity to learn.  I've made many pies using graham crumbs, or crumble crumbs, but this would be a real pie, with real crust.  So I hit my books looking for ideas.

For John, I thought it'd be better to stick to traditional pie because he told me it was his favourite.  Because of that, I knew something like this, although yummy-looking and very tempting, wouldn't suit.  I'm sure it's delicious, but it's not the real deal.  And when you've been looking forward to something, you want the real deal, not a fancy substitute.  There may be a fancy substitute in the future, but because I had a custom order to fill, I started looking for a real, traditional recipe for raspberry pie.

Funny thing, there isn't one.  There are raspberry tarts, and tartlettes, and blueberry pies, and mixed-berry pies, but in all my fancy baking books, there isn't a raspberry pie.  The closest I came, was the recipe I selected, which really is just plain-old generic "berry pie".  Note to self: if I ever write a cookbook, generic Raspberry Pie is going in it!

So, for John, I offer up Raspberry Pie.  Enjoy!

Raspberry Pie
Makes: 1 9-inch pie

Ingredients:
1 double-crust pie crust recipe**

5 cups frozen raspberries (approx. 2 600 gram bags)
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp lemon zest

Directions:

Thaw frozen berries about 45 minutes if using straight from freezer.  If using fresh berries, skip this step.

Preheat oven to 375F.
In a large bowl mix together the sugar, flour, and lemon.  Add the berries and toss to coat.
 Transfer the berry mixture to the prepared pie crust.  Lightly wet edges of bottom crust and top with second crust, pinching to create a seal.  Vent top crust with a few fork holes.
  Top pie with a pie crust shield (or tin foil) to protect edges from over-browning.
Bake pie for 50 minutes, remove the pie crust shield, and bake an additional 30 minutes more or until filling is bubbly and pastry is golden.
 Cool on a wire rack.


** One small confession: I didn't make the crust.  I know! I know! Shame on me... but I really wanted to make a pie John would like because birthday pie isn't just any-old-day pie, so I cheated, and Tenderflake gets the credit for this one.


Source: adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Cook Book, page 437.


********************
Added 8:00 PM
I just got word from John -- the pie achieved its objective -- he loves it!  I'm a happy baker today!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

French Lentil Rice Soup

So, as planned, I've been using my slow cooker this week to get some more variety in my meals.  I love having supper ready just as soon as I'm in the door.  The house smells wonderful, and I barely did anything besides prep work before leaving for work.  That's the up-side.  The downside is that not all the recipes are very photogenic.  So although they taste good, they don't look very appetizing.  But that's more the norm, isn't it?  Food rarely looks like its picture, even when it comes out perfectly.

This week was exceptional in that it was unseasonably warm.  So if I hadn't planned to use my slow cooker, I might have eaten differently because of that.  But it was also a very busy work week, so I appreciated having supper ready when I walked in the door.

This recipe appealed to me as a little change from my usual supper selections.  It features lentils as the protein, instead of chicken or beef which usually fit the bill as comfort foods this time of year.  As an added bonus, soups almost always freeze well so I'll have lots of lunches out of this and the other slow cooker creations I'm trying out.  The soup gets pureed a little at the end to add a little creaminess to the texture.  I was tempted to skip that step, but I'm glad I did it because it really did help the mouthfeel of this soup.

French Lentil Rice Soup
Makes: 4 servings

Ingredients:
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 small onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
3 Tbsp uncooked brown rice
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp herbes de Provence
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

Directions:
Stir together all ingredients in a 3 1/2-quart slow cooker.
 Cover and cook on LOW 8 hours or HIGH 4 to 5 hours.
 Remove 1 1/2 cups of soup and puree in a food processor or blender until almost smooth. (I did this with an immersion blender.)  Stir back into soup.
 Divide into four soup bowls and serve warm.  Optionally top each bowl with a spoonful of cream and a sprinkle of parsley.

Enjoy!

Source: Crock Pot - The Original Slow Cooker - Recipe Collection p. 77

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie

Today I made another old stand-by.  Shepherd's pie.  But, with a few personal touches:  it's made with sweet potato (to eliminate the need for cream or butter in the mashed potatoes), and some beef from my parents' farm.   Yum!

This recipe is one of my easiest work-day meals, and has yet to turn out poorly.  I mix it up -- sometimes it's regular potatoes, sometimes skin-on, others not.  Sometimes it's peas in place of corn.  Sometimes it's creamed corn, other times not.  Depends on what's in my cupboard.  Sometimes I add in some herbes de Provence in the potatoes.  Whatever inspiration hits.  It's a cinch, and it's start-to-table in less than an hour.

Sweet Potato Shepherd's Pie
Makes: 5 - 6 servings

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef
1 can corn (whatever kind you like)
1 large sweet potato
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp sage
1 clove garlic (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Boil your sweet potato.  Drain and mash.
Brown the beef, adding in spices, salt, and garlic.
Layer the beef, corn, and potatoes in a casserole dish.  Bake 20 - 30 minutes, until heated through.

Enjoy!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Slow Cooker Bean "Soup" with Ham

This weekend has been ridiculously productive.  I started on my Christmas shopping, installed new curtains in my bedroom, replaced the broken doorbell, cleaned the floors, bathrooms, laundry, dishes, car windows, dug up the frost-killed begonias and replaced them with tulips and mulch, bought groceries, bought a pie crust shield for next weekend, bought cookie cutters that say "NOEL" and "JOY" for work's cookie exchange, caught up with some friends Friday and Sunday, and walked 8k.  Whoo!

What'd you do with your extra hour?  I rediscovered my slow-cooker.

All summer, my slow-cooker's only been making breakfasts -- oatmeal, to be precise.  I'll post the recipe next time I make it, but basically it's mixed fruit with steel cut oats, with things like wheat germ and rye flakes mixed in.  It's good stuff, and is a frequently repeated recipe of mine, which is why I sometimes forget my slow-cooker does cook other things.  So, now that the weather's getting cool enough that the outdoor chores are dying off, (and it's not yet time for shoveling snow) I'm planning on using my slow cooker more.  I figure it'll give me more time to do other things (like the laundry list above) and maybe let me have a little bit of downtime before the Christmas baking and my next cake decorating course start up.

To get me started, I used an old tried-and-true.  It's easy, and is what comfort food is supposed to be -- filling, tasty, and warm.  My whole house smelled like it all afternoon.  Yum!  Problem is, I don't really know what to call it.  It's a recipe modified from an old one.  I think originally was supposed to be soup, but it comes out thick like chili... but doesn't have chili spices, or hot peppers, so it's not really chili.  Either way, it tastes really good with Ryvita crackers.

Slow Cooker Bean "Soup" with Ham
Makes: 6 - 8 servings

Ingredients:
1 pound dry beans (I used red kidney beans today)
1 can crushed tomatoes
4 cups water
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp each salt & pepper
1 cup chopped ham

Directions:
Toss everything into a 3-quart slow cooker, minus the ham.  Cook on low 8 - 10 hours, covered.
In the last 30 minutes, stir in the ham, recover, and finish cooking.
Serve warm with crackers.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Healthy Mac & Cheese

So I had doubts.  This doesn't sound possible, does it?  Healthy mac & cheese?  Plus, it's not insanely difficult ingredients to come by, and it's stove-top.  How easy is that?  I had to try it.  Had to!

It's better than I thought.  Creamy, ooey-gooey like mac & cheese should be.  It's quick to make if you've got the right leftovers on hand (that's the key here) and makes a nice side-dish.  The downside is that it's not really very cheesy.  It's got the feel, but not the hits-the-spot cheesy taste.  It tastes healthy.  It's good, but not quite on the mark.  So while it's not going to push my stand-by mac & cheese recipe outta the way, it's a nice compromise on the days I'm craving comfort food and feeling lazy.

Healthy Mac & Cheese
Makes: 18 (1/2 cup) servings

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
3/4 cup low-fat milk (heated until just warm)
1 cup yogurt cheese*
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
pinch sea salt & black pepper
3/4 pound whole-grain macaroni noodles

Directions:
Cook macaroni according to instructions on package.  Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet.  Add flour.  Using a whisk, make a paste.  Don't let it burn!
Add the warm milk gradually, whisking all the while, until you see the sauce begin to thicken. 
 
Add the mashed sweet potato.  Keep stirring.
 Add the Parmesan cheese, yogurt cheese, salt and pepper.  The sauce should be smooth. 
 
When that mixture is heated through, add the drained, cooked noodles.  Stir to coat the noodles.

Serve hot.

Note:  You can also finish by cooking in the oven.  Set the oven to 225 F, coat a casserole dish with olive oil, fill with the mixture, and bake for 10 - 15 minutes.

* Yogurt cheese is made by straining plain yogurt over cheesecloth in a colander overnight.

Source:  Tosca Reno, page 71.