Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday: Microplane Herb Mill

There is something very satisfying to me about cooking with fresh herbs. They are so beautiful and fragrant and fresh! But sometimes I wish I had a gizmo that would cut them perfectly and beautifully for me. So when I saw this fun Herb Mill by Microplane, I was excited and curious. I love the idea that I could put fresh herbs in and use them as an easy garnish (like those cheese graters they use at Olive Garden)!

What do you think? Do you have one? Is it worth the $25 price tag?
Leave a comment!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Cakes

If you ask me, eggs are really an any-time-of-day food; Breakfast, lunch, dinner, brunch, or linner -- I'm there! A fried egg on wheat toast with a cup of yogurt is my usual breakfast, but I like to change it up sometimes. I love an egg for lunch with pasta, butter and parmesan, when the runny yolk makes a delicious sauce. For dinner, eggs can be served a myriad of ways, (like with crispy prosciutto on a firm mattress of polenta, for example) but we usually have breakfast for dinner on Fridays, so eggs at dinner are usually eggs in a basket (or whatever you like to call an egg fried in a hole in the middle of a piece of buttered bread) or eggs benedict.

Quinoa is a recent discovery for me. The first time I had it was at a little cafe in Ireland, where it was the base of a refreshing tabouleh salad. I rediscovered it at home a couple of months ago when I tried a recipe for Cheesy Quinoa Cakes via Spoon Fork Bacon. Holy wow, you guys! It was a revelation to my tastebuds. (And to rave for just a sec, you really should try that recipe sometime because it's so fabulous and I dream about it sometimes. But back to what I was saying...) Ever since then I've been fiddling with different ways to make quinoa cakes; because they're like eggs -- yummy any time of day. And while you're at it, you might as well fry up an egg to go on top, because -- well just because you can and because it's so dang tasty! It makes a quick lunch, a satisfying savory breakfast, or a light supper.

They're very versatile, too! Throw in what you have hanging around in the fridge. I used pecorino because we had a surplus, and it really made a lovely compliment to the nutty quinoa and earthy veggies. You could use cheddar or mozzarella and leftover steamed broccoli from last night's dinner or whatever you have on hand. Serve it with a salad for  dinner, or with a side of bacon for breakfast. Or leave off the egg on top and use the cakes to dip into a tomato or butternut squash soup. Yum!

Roasted Veggie Quinoa Cakes

1 1/2 c. cooked quinoa
1/2 c. roasted veggies, diced rather small (peppers, crimini mushrooms, zucchini, onions, broccoli, etc.)
1/4 c. grated pecorino cheese
1/4 c. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 egg, beaten
olive oil or canola oil

Combine all ingredients except for oil in a small bowl. (I like to mix everything but the egg together to get the veggies, cheese, and seasonings evenly distributed, and then mix in the egg, but that's just me.) In a medium saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil over medium to medium-high heat. Divide quinoa mixture into four equal parts, and smoosh into patties on the hot pan. Cook for a couple of minutes on each side, or until lightly browned and cooked through in the middle.

Serve with an egg cooked your favorite way on top. I love a good fried egg, but poached or scrambled would be lovely alternatives.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Oh. My. Goodness.

I just pulled these out of the oven, and the house smells so heavenly!

There's nothing I love more in the winter than baking. The smell just wraps you up like a cozy blanket, which makes it much more bearable to be stuck inside (possibly with a sick kidlet, as in my personal experience at the moment).

I also love making good use of ingredients in my kitchen that might otherwise have gone to waste. Which is, I think, the reason I have collected a great many recipes that use up bananas. We never can seem to use them on their own before they're overripe, and considering how many banana recipes there are in the world, we must not be alone.

I love these cookies. Love. Love. Love. Texturally, these are a delight. The edges are crispy, as cookie edges ought to be. The center is tender in an almost cakey way, but they're also hearty at the same time. The banana and the chocolate are the best of friends, and the combination makes my mouth happy, happy, happy! I don't love nuts, particularly walnuts, but if I was a walnut eater, I have to say that they would taste fabulous in these. Absolutely fabulous.

So preheat your ovens, and ready your glasses of milk, because this one should be on your "make right now!" list!

Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ever so slightly adapted from Martha Stewart

1 c. flour*
1/2 c. whole wheat flour*
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. packed light-brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 c. mashed ripe banana (about 1 large)
1 c. old-fashioned rolled oats
8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
1/2 c. coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)

*Whole wheat pastry flour makes a great stand-in for the combination of flours in this recipe, if you're lucky enough to have some available.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together flours, salt, and baking soda in a small bowl and set aside. Cream together butter and sugars on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low, add egg and vanilla, and mix until combined. Mix in banana. Add flour mixture until just combined. Stir in oats, chocolate chips/chunks, and walnuts.

Using a 1" cookie scoop, drop dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing about 2 inches apart. Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown and just set, about 10 minutes. Let cool on sheets on wire racks 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to wire racks; let cool completely. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container up to 2 days.

Pin It

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sloppy Sams

In the past, I usually tried to incorporate at least two meatless meals per week in my menu planning, but lately I've been stepping it up. I find myself gravitating more and more toward vegetarian, meat-free, or almost-meat-free entrees for a variety of reasons. (Though I think one of the main ones might be that they don't require me to remember to thaw meat from the freezer. That's how ordering pizza usually happens.)

This is not to say that I have much intention of giving up meat entirely, and tofu and I will probably never get along. Never. There's just room in my diet for more variety!

I haven't had much experience with lentils until recently, due in large part to a story my father tells about a certain dinner at a friend's house where lentils were served and things ended badly -- I'll spare you the details. Then a couple of years ago, I stumbled upon a post from Skinny Bovine's Kitchen wherein lentils stood in for ground beef in Sloppy Joes, and I was intrigued. The de-beefed version was called Sloppy Sams, and I have been looking for the right opportunity to incorporate them into our dinner lineup. So I did, and I may never look back! They're fabulous!

If your interest is piqued, I really encourage you to give it a chance. You won't know what you're missing until you give it a try!

You can use your favorite Sloppy Joe recipe if you want (though, of course, I think the one I'm about to share is the best one around). This recipe makes a ton, but reheats beautifully, so I like to make a big old batch and freeze half for later. Lazy me love, love, loves having homemade meals in the freezer, and I like to make lazy me happy. You could also scale it down, if you like math and stuff...

Sloppy Sams
inspired by this and this, and especially this

1 - 2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 c. onion, diced*
1 green pepper, diced*
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, grated*
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. ground mustard
3 tsp. chili powder
pinch red pepper flakes
1 1/2 c. ketchup
1 c. water
salt and pepper to taste
4 c. cooked lentils (I used brown/regular)

*The idea here is to make the veggies roughly the same size as the cooked lentils so that everything blends nicely in the bun and there are no jarringly large pieces. (But don't stress out about it.)

In a large skillet or saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Toss in onion, green pepper, garlic, and carrot. Season with salt and pepper, and sautée until onions are tender and translucent. Stir in tomato paste, and cook and stir for a minute or so to liven up the tomato flavor. Meanwhile, combine brown sugar, ground mustard, chili powder, red pepper flakes, and ketchup. Stir into the pot after the tomato paste. Add in water and lentils and let simmer 15 minutes. Serve on your favorite buns (I love the brioche ones from Trader Joe's, partly because they're so gosh darn gorgeous!) with a sprinkle of cheddar cheese, if you like. (And I like. Oh, yes, I like very much.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

3 Ingredient Cake Mix Cookies

My husband just took the baby on a run to the store -- their first-ever outing without me. Which means that I have the house to myself for the first time since the baby was born... Eight months ago today... and with this time, I'm, um, blogging... ?

Instead of pondering the many things that are probably very wrong with this scenario, I'll do what I set out to do, which is to share with you the easiest cookie recipe in the whole world ever. It's true.

Oh crap! They're back already! (I guess I should have paid less attention to the Food Network and more to the task at hand! Curse you, Rachael Ray!) But to drive home my point, in the short time that my husband was gone, I would have had ample time to whip up a batch of these cookies from start to finish.

It goes like this:

Preheat the oven to 375º, and grab a box of cake mix. Any flavor you like/have around from that case-lot sale/moment of weakness in the baking aisle. (I happened to have Red Velvet, because I needed to fill my yearly red food dye requirements in one sitting.) Dump the mix into a bowl/the bowl of your mixer.

Add to that 2 eggs and 1/3 c. canola or vegetable oil. Mix until thoroughly combined.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper and scoop cookies onto them using a 1" scoop, or roll the dough into 1" balls. Take your little hand and flatten each one slightly. Now, put the baking sheets in your preheated oven and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the tops look kind of dry and crackly.

Let cool on sheets for a minute or two before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.


These make great sandwich cookies, too, if you happen to also have a container of store-bought frosting, or a hankering to make some from scratch.

PS: Let's throw a little party to commemorate my 100th post! Hooray face!

Friday, February 3, 2012

{Vegetarian} Smoky Crock Pot Pumpkin Chili

I'll be honest in admitting that we don't watch the Superbowl in our house. (In fact, I had to Google to find out what teams were playing. But I am unashamed.) I don't even care for the ads. But everyone likes football food, particularly chili.

There's something about chili that warms your heart. It's so hearty and filling and wholesome; this recipe, in particular!

On top of being vegetarian (vegan, if you skip the cheese and sour cream, but I'm sorry I can't do that, Dave) it's chock full of smoky flavor. That's the smoked paprika working, so don't substitute regular paprika or you'll miss out big time. (I got a big, but not too big, bottle of it for about $3.50 at Costco.) The pumpkin flavor isn't pronounced, but it's there, and the texture of it adds to the meaty feel of the chili -- I didn't miss the meat at all, and that's saying something.

The slow cooker is a natural choice for casual gatherings because it allows you to have hot food available at any given moment without having to babysit the stove. But you could just as easily do this on the stovetop, if you like.

So, here's my Superbowl offering. I hope you love it as much as we did!

Smoky Crock Pot Pumpkin Chili

adapted from The Ordinary Vegetarian and (never home)maker

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 c. total)
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp. smoked paprika
3 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. dried rubbed sage
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 c. vegetable broth/stock
2 c. pumpkin puree
1, 15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1, 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1, 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes (or whole tomatoes that you crush yourself)
1 c. frozen corn, or 1, 15 oz. can of corn, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sautee until softened and translucent.  Drop in tomato paste and stir around for a minute to liven it up. Add garlic and spices, stirring and cooking to heat them up, then stir in broth/stock. Transfer this mixture to crock pot and add remaining ingredients. Let cook on low for 6 hours or so. Serve with sour cream, shredded cheese, and sliced scallions (or whatever fixings you like best).