Monday, September 21, 2009

Better Oatmeal Cookies

These cookies are based on the recipe provided by Quaker Oats on their cartons of oatmeal, but are less fatty and taste better due to the addition of apple and nutmeg.

1 1/2 sticks softened butter
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour (I like whole wheat or buckwheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups oats
1 tart apple, peeled and diced into extremely small pieces
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix until smooth.

In a separate bowl, gently and slowly whisk together (you don't want to end up with clouds of flour everywhere, so I mean it when I say go SLOW!) the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt.

With a wooden spoon, stir in oats in three portions to make it easier to incorporate. Make sure you use a shorter, sturdy spoon - I have broken a few by stirring this thick mixture with skinny ones. Add apple and raisins.

On an ungreased cookie sheet (or several), scoop rounded tablespoonsful of the mixture. Bake about 12 minutes and let cool.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Red Pepper Gazpacho

1 med. onion, chopped
1 - 2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, or one jalapeno, seeded and chopped
1 tsp olive oil
2 red bell peppers, roasted & peeled
1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups veggie broth
1/4 cup dry white wine

Saute onion, garlic and crushed red pepper (or jalapeno) in oil until onion is very soft.  While they are cooking, roast the bell peppers in the toaster oven by slicing in 1/2, removing tops and seeds, and broiling until skin is very black and blistered.  Using a tongs, place the peppers in a paper bag and let sit for about 5 minutes to loosen skin.  When cool enough to handle, remove skins and chop peppers.  Put onion mix and peppers in to the blender and process until smooth - the smoother the better.  Add a little broth to aid the pureeing, but not too much or you will overflow the blender!

Pour into a saucepan, add the broth, tomato paste, and wine and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and cook 15 minutes.  Add plenty of salt and just a little fresh black pepper.  Serve hot or chilled with a dollop of sour cream.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cauliflower Chicken Casserole with Spinach Bechamel

This is a hoity-toity take on the classic noodle casserole, which I love to eat, but hate to have to work off at the gym. And since I really loathe the gym, I decided to try a healthier version. Now, this isn't exactly diet food, and you will still need to watch your portions, but it's not made from canned fatty soup, and it doesn't contain 2 cups of cheese. So it's a lot lower in fat and sodium, and has plenty of vegetables. The best part is that it's truly a complete meal in one dish.

1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-size pieces
1 pkg chopped spinach, thawed
2 chicken cutlets, off bone, no skin, cut into bite-size pieces
1 small onion, peeled
5 - 8 whole cloves
1/4 cup butter or olive oil
1/4 cup flour
2 cups lowfat or skim milk
1/3 bag egg noodles, cooked to very al dente
1 cup cheddar cheese (can use lowfat cheese)
salt and black pepper to taste

First, make the bechamel this way: Preheat oven to 350. Melt the butter (or heat the oil) in an oven-proof saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour and make a nice, toasty roux. Whisk in the milk until smooth. Stick the cloves into the onion and then place the whole onion into the milk sauce. Place the saucepan into the oven and let thicken about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the chicken in a drizzle of olive oil until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside. In same pan, saute the spinach and season with salt. Set aside. Cook the egg noodles and drain. You can use the same water to boil the cauliflower, about 5-7 minutes, until tender-crisp.

To assemble: When the bechamel is done, remove the onion and discard. Stir in the sauteed spinach until evenly distributed throughout the sauce. Then, in a large bowl, mix together all ingredients except for HALF the cheddar cheese. Add freshly ground black pepper and more salt to taste. Pour chicken mixture into a lightly greased casserole pan and push down into corners and smooth the top. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. Bake 35 minutes at 350.

I'm planning to make this again tomorrow night, and will put up photos then. In the meantime, enjoy!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Obsession: Mushroom Slicer

I adore it. The humble mushroom slicer. God, this makes cooking so much faster. Whoever invented this was a genius. I use it for eggs, small tomatoes, and soft cheese too.

Friday, April 3, 2009

To Shame or Not to Shame?

A wise woman once said to me that guilt is the world's most useless emotion.  So, I will not feel guilty about not having posted in over 2 weeks.  Instead, I will feel proud that I nursed my family through two colds, two birthdays, and one sinus infection with delicious food that I simply didn't have time to share on the web.

Now that everyone is older and healthier, I will do my best to recreate those recipes that got my little family through the difficult last clutches of winter.  And we will celebrate spring!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Semi-Asian Chicken & Veggies

Sesame oil gives this dish a subtly Asian flavor which is enhanced by the use of celery. If you are assiduous about draining the oil from the sauteed items, this can be a delicious, low-fat meal. Flavoring the rice with chicken stock and hot sauce makes it a bit more interesting.

4 chicken tenderloins, cut into bite size pieces
1.5 cups broccoli florets
1 red bell pepper
1 cup baby carrots
3 ribs celery
1 cup white rice
1 cup water
1 cup low sodium chicken stock
4 tbsp veggie oil
4 tbsp sesame oil
hot sauce to taste
salt & pepper

Start the rice first, since it takes the longest to cook. In your saucepan, add the rice to one cup each of water and chicken stock. Add a dash of hot sauce, and some salt and pepper. Cook according to package directions.

In a small saute pan, pour 2 tbsp each veggie and sesame oil, and a dash or two hot sauce. Saute chicken until cooked. There will be a LOT of extra oil in the pan, so you need to seriously drain the chicken. I used a colander to let the grease drip out, and then transferred the chicken to paper towels to get excess oil off.

At the same time as the chicken in cooking, wash and chop all veggies into bite size pieces. In a saute pan, pour 2 tbps each veggie and sesame oil. When hot but not smoking, add vegetables. Cook about 5 minutes, until tender-crisp. Drain on paper towels.

When oil has been drained/patted off, toss chicken with the vegetables and serve with the rice. Be sure to have the hot sauce and salt and pepper on the side.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Roast Chicken with Garlic Green Beans

Recently I was watching another episode of Top Chef, and one of the contestants made a roasted chicken for none other than Lidia Bastianich.  I was inspired by seeing this simple yet rich and comforting dish, and decided to make my own.  We happened to have about 5 heads of garlic on hand, so I decided to roast lots of garlic as well, and to incorporate it into my side: green beans.

1 small roaster chicken, giblets removed
3/4 lemon (cut a whole lemon into quarters)
1/4 large white onion, sliced
extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
18 cloves garlic, whole
2 cups baby carrots
salt and pepper to taste

Green beans:
1 lb trimmed green beans
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 white onion, diced

Chicken drippings (all)
2 to 3 tbsp white flour
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
1 cup chicken stock

Preheat oven to 425.  In a roasting dish with sides, stuff the chicken with 1/2 lemon, cut into 2 pieces, sliced onion, and 3 or 4 whole garlic cloves.  Tie the legs together tightly with twine (I didn't have any, so had to use a strip of twisted cheesecloth!) so that nothing falls out of the cavity while cooking.  Under the chicken's skin, drizzle about 1 teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil on each breast, and rub around so it covers the breasts evenly (and get your mind out of the gutter!).  Then in your cupped palm, mix together a scant half teaspoon each of thyme and rosemary.  Rub this also under the skin, and try to spread it around evenly over the breasts.  Finally, insert the slices of garlic under the skin, and try to cover the breasts completely.  If you tear the skin, don't worry too much; you can pin it back with a toothpick if the meat is too exposed.

Toss the carrots and remaining whole garlic cloves (I recommend 3 to 4 cloves per person, so maybe 15 total) in a bit of olive oil, just barely enough to lightly coat.  Arrange in roasting pan around the chicken, squeeze 1/4 of a lemon over the whole thing, and put in the oven.  Cook with a tent of aluminum foil over the chicken for the first 40 minutes.  Then remove the foil and cook uncovered for another 10 - 15 minutes.  Baste occasionally with pan juices.  To test for doneness, remove the tie from the legs and cut into the crease between the leg and the breast.  There should be no pinkness or blood.  Juices should run clear.

While the chicken cooks, parboil the green beans.  When they are slightly tender but still quite crisp, remove from heat, drain, and rinse with ice cold water to stop the cooking process.  In a saucepan, saute onion and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil about 10 minutes, until soft and caramelized.  Your house should smell delicious by this point!  Just before serving, add the green beans and saute for about 5 minutes.  Salt lightly to taste.

When chicken is ready, remove from oven and rest for about 10 minutes in a dish with sides (to catch additional drippings that may emerge).  Tilt the roasting pan to the side and scoop out as much fat as you can without sacrificing the little scribbly brown bits of chickeny flavor.

Add about 1-1/2 tablespoons of flour to the remaining drippings and whisk to incorporate.  When smooth, transfer to a saucepan, and add the stock and wine.  Stir or whisk continuously while over medium heat to reduce.  If you stop stirring while the heat is on, the gravy will separate.  When reduced to your desired thickness, taste and add salt and pepper.  

Going back to your chicken, you can now remove it from its resting place and place on a 
carving board.  If there are any additional drippings, whisk in another tablespoon of flour to create a roux, and then add to the gravy, stirring over medium heat.

Carve the chicken, make sure the beans are hot, and serve with the roasted carrots and garlic cloves, and some white rice.  Gravy can be served on top AND on the side!  You might even want to smear some of that roasted garlic on baguette slices.

This goes extremely well with a cold sauvignon blanc.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Spinach-Sausage Quiche

I love love love quiche, and I had forgotten how lovely the combo of spinach and swiss cheese is until I made this one. I also used Aidells chicken/turkey sausage flavored with portobello mushrooms because it is lighter than a traditional pork sausage, but also packed with scrumptious mushroomy flavor (Aidells is one of my favorite food companies, and they make a couple of dozen different flavors of sausage, including a fantastic Andouille, by the way).

1 frozen pie shell (you don't think I make dough from scratch every time, do you?)
5 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk or cream
2/3 pkg chopped spinach, thawed
6 ounces Swiss cheese, chopped or shredded
2 links mushroom sausage
salt and pepper

First, pre-cook the pie shell so that the bottom crust doesn't get soggy. About 20 minutes in a 350 oven should be sufficient. And don't worry if you don't have parchment and weights - the crust might puff up a bit, but it will fall again as if it never happened. Leave the oven on at 350.

Slice sausage into thin coins and saute about 5 minutes, turning frequently. Remove coins from pan and set aside. In same pan, add a tiny drizzle of olive oil and saute the spinach. Salt and pepper it to taste. Cook about 5-6 minutes, so that some of the liquid evaporates. Drain off any left in the pan. Grate the Swiss, or, if you only have sliced cheese, as I did, just chop it into tiny squares.

In a bowl, toss sausage, spinach and cheese. Pour into pre-cooked pie crust. Beat the eggs with the milk, and pour over the spinach mixture. Prod with a fork to distribute beaten eggs as evenly as you can throughout the spinach mixture.

Bake uncovered at 350 for 20 minutes. Then reduce heat to 325 and bake 30-35 minutes more. Eggs should be set and slightly moist in the center, but not runny or wet. Depending on your oven you might need to bake it 5 minutes more. Also, if you like more cream in the eggs, you will definitely need to bake it longer.