Thursday, August 30, 2012

Late Summer Quinoa

It's that time of year when we have more tomatoes, corn and zucchini than we know what to do with.  We got 8 ears of corn and several pounds of tomatoes in our CSA pickup last week, so our meals have been all about corn, tomatoes, corn and tomatoes. 

On Saturday we made homemade pizza (using this dough) and topped it with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, corn and basil.  I really liked the addition of the corn on pizza, but I would recommend leaving the basil off until after baking because ours got kind of toasted. We were at the beach, so we used cookie trays instead of the pizza stone for baking, and we could totally tell the difference in crust crispiness.  Pizza stones are well worth the investment.  Also, taking crappy pictures with the flash in bad lighting doesn't do it any favors, but I wanted to give you an idea of what it looked like.

Sunday night we had burgers, topped with tomatoes, and grilled corn on the cob.  I asked Jon to grill all the corn because I think it's better that way, and then it would be all ready to use for the quinoa and chowder later in the week. 

Quinoa lends itself to pretty much any addition.  Bring two cups of liquid to a boil, add one cup of quinoa, simmer for 15 minutes and you can throw anything into it and call it dinner.  Or lunch.  Or breakfast.  In this batch, I cooked the quinoa in vegetable broth for extra flavor and added all the veggies I could dig out of the refrigerator.

Late Summer Quinoa

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth (or water)
1 cob of corn, kernels removed (I used grilled, but boiled or raw would work)
2 cups chickpeas (or one can, drained and rinsed)
1 yellow bell pepper
1/2 pint (about 10) cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups green beans, trimmed
2 small zucchini, sliced
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Optional toppings: feta or goat cheese and parsley

Prepare quinoa.  Bring two cups of liquid to a boil.  Add one cup of quinoa.  Reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 15-20 minutes.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan.
Add in chopped onion and zucchini cook for about 5-7 minutes, until softened. 
Add in chopped garlic and cook 1 minute more.
In a pot bring a few cups of water to a boil.
Cook the green beans for about 5-7 minutes, until slightly softened but still crispy (or however you like to eat green beans).
Remove beans and plunge into a bowl of ice water.  This will stop the cooking and keep them bright green.
In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, zucchini, onion, garlic, beans and remaining vegetables.
Prepare a simple vinaigrette.  Whisk together 1 teaspoon or so of dijon mustard with a few (3) tablespoons of vinegar.  Slowly add olive oil in a stream while whisking until emulsified.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Pour dressing over quinoa and top with goat/feta and parsley, if you like those things.  Serve warm, cold or at room temperature.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Low(er) Fat Banana Bread

While this is the best banana bread recipe ever, it's good to try new things.  New things that don't have six tablespoons of butter in them.  Especially since we can polish off a loaf of banana bread over the course of a weekend without much difficulty.  Also, I went on an applesauce buying bender for Colin a few weeks ago, so we have plenty around.  I considered trying to healthify up this recipe a bit more by subbing in wheat or wheat pastry flour for the all-purpose and cutting down the sugar, but then I didn't.  I'll let you know if I do, and if you do tell me how it goes. 

If you are a fan of AHWA on Facebook (and I hope you are!), you know that I made this in just a few minutes during naptime last week.  Then I thought about using all my extra time to clean the bathtub but opted to complain about it on Facebook instead. 

Lower Fat Banana Bread

2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 bananas
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Prepare a loaf pan with cooking spray or butter.
In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.
In another bowl, mash the bananas, and mix in the applesauce, vanilla and eggs.
Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, mixing until just combined.
Pour batter into a loaf pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.  We like the gooey center, so I did just shy of 50 minutes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Pesto Bruschetta

This is a ridiculously easy dish to make, and works well as an hors d'oeuvres to bring to parties.  I double check the spelling of hors d'oeuvres every time I write it lest you think I'm a moron.  I can also tell you from experience that it is a good addition to appetizers-for-dinner night.  I hope we're not the only people who do that, because it's amazing.  It's the perfect way to justify chowing down on cheese and crackers and the like because it's a meal.  Anyway, I've wandered off topic again.

I made my own pesto for this, but you can certainly use store bought as well, making it even easier.  I've also done a variation where I subbed goat cheese for some of the cream cheese.

Pesto Bruschetta

1 french baguette, cut into 1/2 inch slices (you can toast, or not)
8 oz. package cream cheese, room temperature (light cream cheese works well here because it's a little easier to spread)
1/4 cup pesto (start with a couple tablespoons and adjust to taste)

In a food processor, or a large bowl, combine cream cheese and pesto.
Spread on baguette slices.
Garnish with tomato slices or basil, if you feel like it.  
Bring to a party and impress your friends.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Edamame Hummus

This is a nice twist on traditional hummus, and you know I usually can't get enough of the chickpeas.  Replacing the chickpeas with edamame and the traditional olive oil with sesame oil gives this an Asian flavor that pairs especially nicely with rice crackers.  I recommend the wasabi flavor if you like the spice.  The only part of this that I didn't like was peeling the skins off the edamame.  I know it gives the hummus a creamier texture, but it took a good 20 minutes during which time I was singing Disney tunes loudly to Colin in an attempt to keep him entertained and not chewing on the baseboards.  Next time I might just live dangerously and see what happens if I leave them on.

Edamame Hummus
recipe from Daily Garnish 

1 16 oz. bag frozen edamame
2 garlic scapes, roughly chopped (or one clove of garlic)
1/4 cup water (adjust as necessary)
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons tahini
2 Tablespoons sesame oil

Cook edamame according to package directions.
If you are patient and want a very creamy texture, slip off the thin skins on the edamame.  This isn't difficult, but can be a bit time consuming.
In the bowl of a food processor, combine all ingredients.
Process until desired consistency.  For me this was about 8 minutes.  Just turn it on and walk away!  Add more water if necessary. 
Adjust salt to taste and garnish with a drizzle of sesame oil and sesame seeds, if you like. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Colin is 7 Months Old!

I should call this the 7 1/2 month update, because that's how far behind I am!

We have been having the best summer!  Seeing lots of friends and family and bouncing from one beach to another.  We were lucky enough to spend a few days with my best friend and roommate from high school, Megan, and her two little kids, who are 3 1/2 and 1.  They are adorable, and it was great (if a bit crazy) to hang out with all the kids together.  We've visited with both sets of grandparents, and spent the week in Maine with my parents, my sister and her family. 

I spend considerably less time on the beach baking in the sun and more time cleaning sand out of Colin's mouth, but I wouldn't have it any other way.  Colin loves the beach.  He likes to be held standing at the edge of the water and stomping his feet, he likes to sit in tide pools and splash, and most of all he likes to eat sand.  The delicious organic peas I lovingly steamed and mashed for him, he does not care for, but he can't get enough sand. 

The adventures in solid foods have been going well, aside from the aforementioned peas.  Bananas, sweet potatoes, applesauce, avocado, watermelon and cantaloupe have all gone over well.  He did not get to eat this lobster, but he was certainly interested in what the heck it was. 

Some major changes happened this week.  A tooth!  A new car seat!  Scooting at lightening speed towards whatever is dirtiest/most dangerous/breakable!  We knew the tooth was imminent because you could see the actual outline through the gums and he was chewing even more than normal, if that's possible.  He has also been sleeping in far shorter increments at night, but who am I to blame the poor guy if his teeth hurt and he wants a midnight (and 2 AM, and 4 AM) snack.  I think I've spent more time sleeping in the chair in the nursery than my own bed in the past week. 

A few likes and dislikes:
Likes: ceiling fans, flags, digital clocks, other people brushing their teeth, water bottles, things to chew, laughing hysterically at anything Jon does

Dislikes: getting in the car seat, peas

All in all, another amazing month with the world's best (and biggest) baby. 

Soft and Chewy Molasses Cookies

I am sorry I left you for two weeks!  We were on vacation in Maine, and then have been having some major happenings in life with Colin.  All good things, but not conducive to sitting down and writing.  I had to choose between napping while Colin napped and writing, and I apologize, but the sleep won.  I am back, though, and have one of the most popular cookie recipes I bake to share with you.

Among the food I brought to Maine last week were these molasses cookies.  Also known as my Dad's Most Favorite Cookies.  The only change I would recommend is to store these in a container as opposed to a large plastic bag. I did the latter, and when I had to acrobatically climb into the backseat to attempt (unsuccessfully) to calm down our crying baby at hour 4 of the traffic jam, I landed on the bag of cookies. They did not fare well.  Still tasted delicious but less round than what you see here. 

Molasses Cookies
recipe from Joy of Baking

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar (if you only have light brown, go a little over on the molasses measurement)
2 teaspoons vegetable, canola or safflower oil
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup white sugar, for rolling

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt and spices.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add the oil, molasses, egg and vanilla and beat until well incorporated.
Add in the flour mixture, mix until incorporated.
Cover and chill the batter for at least 2 hours.  I usually do this the night before, which means quick baking the next day.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Line baking sheets with silicone mats or parchment paper.
Pour white sugar into a bowl.
Roll the dough into 1 inch balls.  A cookie scoop is ideal for this step.
Roll the balls in the white sugar and place on cookie sheets.  Flatten slightly.
Bake for 9-10 minutes until tops are crinkly at the edges but the centers are still very soft.
Allow to cool on wire racks.
Makes 32 cookies.
Store in an airtight container (I do not recommend a plastic bag - see above) for up to a week.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Vanilla Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

And rainbow sprinkles, because that just ups the party factor. 

We had a few friends over this weekend to eat, drink, play bocce and meet Colin.  I figured cupcakes would be a good way to cap off the day.  Our lovely friends also brought delicious desserts, and gave us the leftovers, so I've been doing my best not to eat more than two a day.  Because two desserts a day is reasonable, and six is not.  Spoonfuls of leftover frosting from the fridge do not count towards this limit, in case you were wondering.

I used these recipes from Brown Eyed Baker.  They came out perfectly!  Plus, I finally made halfway decent looking frosting swirls.  The key was to use a real piping bag and not cheap out and try to use a ziploc.  Too many ziplocs have exploded frosting on me.  No more.

Vanilla Cupcakes
Yield: 12 regular sized cupcakes

1 1/2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg, room temperature
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tin with paper liners.
In a bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  
In a standing mixer, combine butter, sour cream, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla. 
Add in the flour mixture and beat until smooth. 
Using an ice cream scoop or measuring cup, divide batter evenly among cups.
Bake until cupcakes are pale gold and spring back when lightly pressed, about 20-24 minutes.
Cool on a wire rack to room temperature. 
I like to bake cupcakes the day before serving to be sure they are completely cool, and also save some time on party day.

Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes.
Reduce speed to low and slowly add the powdered sugar.  Once all the powdered sugar is incorporated, increase speed to medium-high, add the vanilla and whip until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 
It was hot and humid when I made this, so my butter was super soft.  I put the frosting in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to firm up a bit before piping, so it wouldn't melt everywhere.
Leftovers keep in the fridge.  Bring to room temperature and whip to use, or eat with a spoon.  

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