Monday, October 31, 2011

Butternut Mac & Cheese

Homemade mac and cheese is one of the best comfort foods of all time.  However, you need to be in a particular mood to consume huge amounts of pasta and creamy cheese sauce.  That mood being one which involves yoga pants.  These days my mood always involves yoga pants, but I wanted to add a few healthy features to this mac and cheese so I could get away with serving it for dinner without a side of running on the treadmill.  In addition to your usual pasta and cheese, this recipe includes roasted butternut squash puree, as well as steamed broccoli and kale.  The butternut squash thickens the sauce and brings that lovely orange color reminiscent of the blue box we all grew up with. 

Butternut Mac & Cheese
1 cup cooked butternut squash (I roasted a 4 pound squash, and reserved the rest.  You can also substitute frozen butternut squash puree.)
3/4 -1 cup milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
1/2-1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp paprika
salt and pepper
8 oz. pasta (I used wheat rotini)
2-3 cups vegetables (I used broccoli and kale)

Bring pasta water to a boil in a large saucepan.  Add pasta and cook for about half the directed time.  Add in vegetables for the last few minutes of cooking time to lightly steam.  Drain and reserve about a cup of pasta water in case your sauce needs to be thinned (mine did not).
In a blender, puree the butternut squash with the milk.  Season with mustard, paprika and salt and pepper. 
Return pasta and vegetables to saucepan, pour in the butternut squash mixture, and stir in shredded cheese until melted.  Add reserved pasta water as necessary to thin the sauce to desired consistency.
I served mine straight from the pot, but you can also bake this in a 375 degree oven to brown the top.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mama Pea's Thai Veggie Burgers

I'm going to do something kind of mean today, so I apologize in advance.  I'm going to tell you about a dinner I made, but I can't share the recipe.  Due to pesky things like copyright laws, it would be stealing to publish the recipe online.  However, I will tell you that the Peas and Thank You cookbook is worth every penny.  I've already bookmarked nearly every page, which sort of negates the need for bookmarking, and am so excited to try all the recipes.  Plus, it's full of funny stories and anecdotes, so I actually sat down and read it cover to cover like a book.  

In any case, the Thai Veggie Burgers caught my eye.  They are bean based, like all the veggie burgers I've made, and have some really interesting flavors.  While I can't share the ingredient list, I will tell you that the toppings include pineapple slices and teriyaki sauce.  Good stuff. 

We ate them with roasted sweet potato fries and kale chips.  It's easy to cook vegan, no tofu required. 

Teriyaki Sauce
recipe from
  • 1/4 cup tamari soy sauce (soy sauce)
  • 1 cup water
  • fresh grated ginger (about 1 tbsp or to your taste)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  1. Combine 1 cup water, tamari, brown sugar, garlic and ginger in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
  2. Dissolve cornstarch in 1/4 cup of cold water and add to sauce.
  3. Stir constantly to allow the sauce to thicken.
  4. If the sauce is too thick add a little water or tamari to thin.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Banana Oat Bars

I had a couple of bananas on the counter just begging to be baked this weekend.  I made banana muffins last week and we had no trouble polishing them off in a few days, but I wanted to try something a little different, and marginally healthier.  A little internet searching and I came across a couple of good ideas.  These snack bars are a great alternative to store-bought cereal bars, and you can even get away with eating one for a sweet breakfast.

Banana Oat Bars
1 1/3 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup white sugar (Mushy bananas are pretty sweet to start with, so I would try cutting this out next time)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 medium mashed bananas (about one cup)
1/4 cup milk
1 whole egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a 8x8 or 9x9 baking dish with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray.
Whisk together oats, sugars, baking powder, cinnamon and baking soda.
In another bowl, mix together bananas, milk, eggs and vanilla.
Stir wet ingredients into dry.
Pour into baking dish and bake for about 35 minutes until set and lightly browned on the edges.

I bet these would be great with the addition of 1/2 cup dried fruit or chocolate chips, just reduce the sugar.

Store in the refrigerator.  

Friday, October 21, 2011

Shepard's Pie

This week got away from me!  Between birthday celebrations, a wedding and family stuff, it's suddenly Friday and I have no blog posts to show for myself.  I will tell you that some of the highlight foods of the week were Red Beans and Rice and Carrot Apple Ginger Soup.  The lowlight was the night I was so tired I couldn't muster the energy to make anything more interesting than pasta.  In my 30+ week pregnancy fog, I thought to myself that I would jazz up the pasta with some goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes and olive oil.  I had the brilliant idea of softening the sun dried tomatoes in the microwave, so I put them in a bowl with a little olive oil, turned it on, and promptly wandered away and got distracted by Facebook.  I was jolted back to reality by the smell of burning sun dried tomatoes.  They went in the trash, I substituted fresh tomatoes, and opened all the windows to air out the kitchen.

Last Saturday we attended the wedding of our wonderful friends, Ricky and Christine.  It was a fantastic evening, they were both so relaxed and happy.  I was especially happy because they had something like 15 different appetizers, and I tried them all.  Part of the dinner buffet was individual Shepard's pies, a favorite of the groom.  By the time I got there, they had swapped in lobster mac and cheese, which was more than fine by me, but it got me thinking about Shepard's pie.

Shepard's Pie
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and chopped
Butter and milk to taste for mashed potatoes
1 Tablespoon butter or canola oil
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 carrots (about 2 cups), peeled and chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups peas, defrosted
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 pound ground turkey or beef
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon flour
1 cup beef stock
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Put chopped potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to a boil and cook until tender, about 20 minutes.
Mash, mixing in milk, butter, salt and pepper to taste.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat butter or oil over medium heat.
Cook onion, carrots, and celery about 5 minutes, until onion is translucent.
Add in garlic, cook one minute more.
Remove vegetables to a bowl, and mix in thawed peas.  I ended up using way more peas because I had an awkward amount left.  Adjust vegetable quantities however you want. 
Brown ground meat in the pan, drain any excess fat.
Return vegetables to the pan, add in spices and flour, cook for one minute.
Pour in beef stock and Worcestershire sauce.  Cook until slightly reduced.
Put meat and vegetable mixture in a prepared baking dish.
Spread mashed potatoes over the top.  Attempt to make artful peaks for aesthetic purposes.
Bake at 375 for 35 minutes.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies

Jon will frequently request food by lamenting out loud that I never make him __________ (fill in the blank with tacos, swedish meatballs, muffins, banana bread, cookies, pie, etc.).  In the case of peanut butter cookies, he was right.  I'm not sure I've ever made them, and given that peanut butter has been a major food group for me during the last 6 months, I can't imagine why.  There is no shortage of recipes out there and between my own cookbooks and the internet, I pieced together what I consider to be a pretty good one.

Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural, it worked well)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 1/2-3 cups flour (I used three and had a little extra flour in the bottom of my mixer)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

In a mixer, or a bowl using a hand mixer, cream together butter, peanut butter and sugars.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing until incorporated.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.
Add flour mixture to mixer bowl, stirring on low until just combined.
Refrigerate dough for at least one hour, or overnight.  I kept it to an hour, and it was fine.
Roll one inch balls of dough and put on a cookie sheet.  I use Silpat liners.  I also used a cookie scoop, which looks like a mini ice cream scoop, to portion my dough.  It was a gift from my friend Megan, and I'm a little obsessed with how easy it makes baking cookies!
Using a fork dipped in cold water, make cross hatch marks on the cookies.
Bake at 350 for 11 minutes, turning once in the middle.  We like our cookies very soft, so adjust cooking time according to your taste.
Allow to cool 5 minutes on cookie sheet before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

This made about 50 cookies for me.  That is too many cookies to have around the house.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Crispy Baked Eggplant

I got these adorable mini eggplant at the CSA last week.  They are so mini and tender that you don't need to peel them, the skin is easy to eat.  Not like eating regular eggplant skin where you have to tear through it dinosaur-style with your teeth.  Anyway, while brainstorming ideas for how to use these mini eggplant, I happened on a recipe for crispy baked zucchini fries.  Using the classic breadcrumb technique, I came up with crispy baked eggplant.  I served these along caprese salad with pesto and drizzled with balsamic.  I'm thinking the leftovers will make a great hot wrap for lunch if I ever finish eating the corn soup. 

Crispy Baked Eggplant
4-5 mini eggplant, or one full size
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2-1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Chop eggplant into bite size pieces (about half an inch).  If you have time, put eggplant pieces on a colander and sprinkle with sea/kosher salt and drain for about an hour. I did this the first time I made it and not the second,  there was no problem. 
In a large bowl, toss eggplant pieces in flour until coated.
In another bowl or shallow dish, whisk the two eggs.  Stir in the eggplant to coat evenly.
In yet another bowl, mix together bread crumbs, Parmesan and oregano.  Toss eggplant pieces until coated. 
Spread eggplant on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown, turning once.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall Quinoa - Butternut, Apple, Chickpeas, Cranberries

This is just a variation on the quinoa recipes I've shared before, but it's so good.  Plus, the addition of the roasted butternut squash is great and fall-ish.  I'll give rough estimates for the quanities of the ingredients, but really I just added until the ratios looked good.  I have a whole bunch of leftover butternut squash, which I've been eating on salads with apples all week.  Of course, you could always make the best risotto with it, too. 

Fall Quinoa
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth or water
2 cups (or one can) chickpeas
2 cups roasted butternut squash
1 apple, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
goat cheese

In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Saute onion for about 3 minutes until softened.
Add garlic, cook for one minute more.
Stir in quinoa, cook for one minute, stirring.
Pour in broth or water, reduce to simmer and cover for 20-25 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed.  Check and stir occasionally while cooking. 
When cooked, stir in chickpeas, squash, apple and dried cranberries.
Serve hot, cold or room temperature, sprinkled with goat cheese and balsamic vinegar.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Chickpea and Spinach Curry

This is a super fast, super healthy recipe.  Aside from the time to cook rice, it takes about 10 minutes total.  And, it's made from ingredients you can keep stocked in your pantry, so you can throw it together on nights when you have absolutely no idea what to make.

I had absolutely zero ideas on what to make for dinner at the beginning of this week.  I knew I was going to cook a batch of dried chickpeas because Jon kept asking when I was going to make more hummus.  As a side note, said hummus contained the hottest jalapenos I have ever come in contact with, and we can barely eat it without chugging milk.  I'm currently brainstorming ideas for what to serve it with to cool it down a bit.  I'm thinking something along the lines of a yogurt feta spread.  More to come on that.  Anyway, a whole batch of chickpeas is a lot of chickpeas, so I used some in this meal, and the rest in a quinoa dish I'll share tomorrow. 

Chickpea and Spinach Curry
from Cooking Light

1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 Tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 can chickpeas (I used about 2 cups)
1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
4 cups fresh spinach (I used one package frozen spinach, thawed)
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a skillet or a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.
Add onion, cook for 3 minutes until softened.
Add in ginger, sugar and curry powder and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. 
Add in chickpeas, tomatoes and spinach.  Season with salt.
Stir in up to 1/2 cup water as needed.
Simmer for at least 3 more minutes.

I served this with brown rice with a twist.  Normally with a dish like this, I would just layer the rice, the chickpea curry and a dollop of Greek yogurt.  This time, I mixed the rice with the yogurt, and served it on top.  The rice, yogurt combo was delicious, even though I kind of mashed the whole thing together as I was eating it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Creamy Salmon Pasta with Peas

So, you have some leftover salmon.  Perhaps from Maple Glazed Salmon, perhaps not.  Maybe you just think this sounds good and bought salmon for this recipe in particular.  Good for you.  Salmon is great. 

I was a big fan of this dish.  Since I did use leftovers from Maple Glazed Salmon, my fish was already spiced.  I thought that added a nice flavor dimension, but of course, it's not necessary.

Creamy Salmon Pasta with Peas
slightly modified from Self

Cooking spray
1 lb salmon fillet, skin removed
6 ounces pasta (I used whole wheat rotini)
1 1/2 cups peas (fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 cups milk (I used unsweetened almond milk)
3 Tablespoons flour
3 ounces Neufchatel (reduced fat cream cheese)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill (I used 1/2-1 teaspoon dried)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

If you are using precooked salmon, heat it slightly in a 350 degree oven just so you aren't mixing cold fish into hot pasta.

If you are starting from scratch:
Heat broiler to low.
Coat a baking sheet or broiler pan with cooking spray.
Season salmon with salt and pepper.
Broil until cooked through, 5-10 minutes depending on thickness.
Using a fork, flake salmon into bite size pieces.

Cook pasta as directed on package, add frozen peas for the last 3 minutes of cooking time.  Drain.
In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk together 1/4 cup milk and flour until smooth and lightly bubbling.
Whisk in remaining milk.  Season with salt and pepper.
Heat, whisking, until thickened to the consistency of heavy cream.
Remove from heat, whisk in Neufchatel and dill.
Toss in pasta, peas and lemon juice.
Serve garnished with lemon zest.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Maple Glazed Salmon

There are a lot of reasons I love salmon.  It's all kinds of good for you, full of omega-3s and all that.  Plus, it's delicious and high in protein, so you feel great after eating it.  Cooked either on the grill or under the broiler, it takes less than 20 minutes total, so a great quick dinner.  Additionally, this spice rub can be used on anything from fish to meat, poultry or vegetables, so make extra if you like, it will keep in a sealed container. 

Maple-Glazed Salmon
recipe from Cooking Light

1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 (6 ounce) salmon fillets (I used one 1 1/4 pound fillet)
Cooking spray
2 Tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat broiler.  I put mine on low, but if you only have high, that's ok.
Spray broiler pan with cooking spray and put salmon on, skin side down.
Combine spice mixture (paprika through salt) and sprinkle onto fillets.
Broil 6-10 minutes or until desired degree of doneness.
Drizzle salmon with maple syrup and broil one minute more.

For the two of us, I portioned the salmon fillet into four pieces.  One each for this dinner, and the rest for tomorrow's creamy salmon pasta.

This looks a little less blackened in person, but the sugar and maple syrup caramelize nicely.
We ate it with roasted sweet potatoes for an all orange and black meal.  How unintentionally festive. 

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