Saturday, January 23, 2016

Lighter Meatballs: How To Make Them Healthier


Pasta and meatballs are one of my favorite comfort food dishes, however, they can really be incredibly unhealthy depending on how you make them (or how many you eat!). I try to swap in ground turkey whenever I can for ground beef, but sometimes that really sacrifices a lot of flavor and you run the risk of having meatballs that are dried out and flavorless.

I found this fantastic recipe that uses ground turkey and a swap of cooked quinoa for breadcrumbs recently and had to share it. Now, before you read "quinoa" and immediately check out or make a fake gagging motion, know that I am not the biggest quinoa fan. Honestly, most of the time I can identify with Jim Gaffigan: Quinoa is an ancient grain...it sure tastes like it! There are a few recipes I like that use quinoa, usually in salads with a great vinaigrette and lots of other veggies or as part of a "skillet" meal with sweet potatoes and black beans. I had never tried using it as a binder before and was a little skeptical, but I figured I'd give it a shot.

The meatballs actually turned out really well and I plan on making them again. If you don't want to take the time to brown them on top of the stove like I did in the recipe, try placing them on a greased baking sheet and baking at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, just until they are "set". This will keep them from forming a giant meat wad in your slow-cooker when you simmer them with the tomato sauce.

Serve up these meatballs over penne the way I did or use your favorite pasta or veggie noodles if you're really trying to earn extra healthy points!

Slow-Cooker Turkey Quinoa Meatballs

Ingredients
2 pounds lean ground turkey
2/3 cup cooked & cooled quinoa (to add extra flavor, cook your quinoa in broth instead of water)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. Italian Seasoning (I like to use Penzey's Tuscan Sunset)
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
Kosher salt & black pepper
1 large sweet onion, sliced into thin crescents
2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes

Instructions
In a large bowl, combine the turkey, quinoa, garlic, beaten egg, olive oil, cheese, Italian seasoning and a big pinch of salt and pepper. Mix so the ingredients are just combined (overmixing makes tough meatballs!) and roll into small balls. I like to use my small cookie scoop for this, that way you make sure they are all the same size!

Layer the sliced onions on the bottom of the slow cooker and add 1 can of the crushed tomatoes.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add a good splash of olive oil. Add meatballs in batches, searing on the top and bottom until golden, about 1 minute per side. After they're seared, add them one at a time to the slow cooker. Repeat with remaining meatballs - it is okay to stack them on top of each other in the slow cooker.

Once all the meatballs are in the slow cooker, add the other can of crushed tomatoes, completely covering the meatballs. Cook on low for 4-6 hours and serve hot over pasta or use these to make meatball subs!

Recipe barely adapted from http://www.howsweeteats.com

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Monday, December 7, 2015

How To Make A Perfect Apple Pie


Apple pie is a classic. I've been making one version or another, trying to perfect a recipe, since I was in high school and I have to say I'm pretty close to perfection with this version. You can easily top this pie with another crust or use the crumble the way I did, either way the blend of apples and spices is fantastic.




As much as I love the pumpkin flavors of Thanksgiving, the chocolate and mint tastes of Christmastime, I have a special place in my heart for apple. I think I love it the most because of the combination of warming spices that blend so well with the fruit. Nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, mace...such a delicious blend!



My daughter got in on the fun with this recipe, she loves baking almost as much as I do. Anytime I turn on the stand mixer or food processor she comes running!

The Perfect Apple Pie

Ingredients for the Pie
1 pie crust (use your favorite recipe or check mine out here)
5 large apples, peeled and sliced very thin (I used 2 pink lady apples and 3 granny smith)
2 Tbsp. Penzey's Apple Pie Spice blend
1/2 cup granulated sugar (you can cut back on this if you use sweeter apples)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup AP flour

Ingredients for the Crumb Topping (omit if making a traditional 2 crust apple pie)
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 heaping tsp. ground cinnamon
3/4 cup AP flour
1/3 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Instructions
Make the filling by adding the apples to a large bowl and sprinkling them with the apple pie spice blend, sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and flour. Toss well with a wooden spoon, making sure the apples are all completely coated. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Roll out your pie crust until its about 1/2" thick and lay it in a 8 or 9" pie plate. Flute or pinch the edges with your fingers and fill the prepared crust with your apple filling.

Mix together the brown sugar, cinnamon, flour, salt and nuts in a small bowl, then add in the butter and mash it all together with a fork. Crumble the mixture evenly over the top of the pie. *If making a 2 crust pie, omit this step and just use the second crust to top your pie, cutting vents in the top to release the steam before baking.*

Place the pie on a large baking sheet (to catch any drips if the filling bubbles over) and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn the oven temperature down to 375 and bake for another 30 minutes. If the crust edges seem to be browning too much, cover it with a pie shield.

Allow the pie to cool for 2 hours before slicing and serving. It will still be warm, but letting it cool allows the juices of the apples to thicken so it slices neatly. I love topping this pie with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream, but it is delicious all on it's own too!


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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Eggs For Dinner: How To Make A Perfect Frittata


I love dinner for breakfast. Not just because I rarely get the chance to splurge on a big breakfast in the morning (usually its oatmeal around here!), but because it makes it so easy to get a filling and nutritious meal on the table for dinner.

This recipe was in a recent issue of Food Network Magazine and I absolutely love it. I used an applewood smoked gouda cheese and it was absolutely perfect blended in with the mix of baby kale, spinach, chard and arugula. Its a fantastic way to get your greens without just chowing down on what tastes like a bowl of grass.

Frittatas are wonderful because its basically a way to make a giant omelette without standing over the stove. Plus they're really customize-able - you can add in whatever you have in your fridge! Some of my favorite additions are mushrooms (sauteed first), leftover cooked bits of bacon or sausage and basically any cheese. The gouda pairs really well with the hearty greens in this recipe, but if its not your favorite kind of cheese just add in whatever you like.

What are your go-to dinner for breakfast recipes?

Smoked Gouda Frittata with Winter Greens

Ingredients
12 large eggs
1/2 cup whole milk 
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 1/2 oz. smoked gouda cheese (I used an applewood smoked gouda)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 loosely packed cups of hearty winter greens (I used baby kale, spinach, chard and arugula)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary (crumbled)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Instructions
Preheat the oven to 375 and whisk together the eggs, milk, a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper until well combined. Stir in the cheese and set aside while you prepare the greens.

Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat (I used my cast iron skillet, which is basically nonstick at the point due to the seasoning). Add the greens, garlic, rosemary and cayenne and cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are just barely wilted. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper before pouring the egg mixture in.

Stir the mixture once or twice to combine and let it sit for about 1 minutes (without stirring!) on the stovetop. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the frittata is set and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool at least 5 minutes in the skillet before serving.

This frittata is delicious with warm crusty bread or a side of breakfast meat.

Recipe barely adapted from Food Network Magazine


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Monday, October 26, 2015

Back to Balanced: Oatmeal Whole Wheat Bread


It has been months since my last post on this blog. I have no idea if anyone really noticed, but figured I should address it before sharing my latest recipe just in case! Honestly, life has been a bit overwhelming over the past few months. Nothing necessarily bad, just a lot going on and challenges in balancing work, volunteer obligations and family. I stepped away from writing for awhile to get a better handle on balancing my life.

I'm far from perfectly balanced (I know you're laughing out there Mom!), but have put daily practices into habit that have brought my life and priorities better into balance. I had allowed myself to say "yes" to too many things, even fantastic opportunities, and in taking too much on I heaped expectations on my own head that ended up making me feel burnt out and exhausted.

After 30 days of focusing on overall "wellness" by practicing yoga (almost) daily, making sure to get the water and nutrients my body needs, spending quality time with my husband and daughter and focusing on making time with God a priority every day I feel like I am finally ready to take on projects again...like this little food blog I love so much.

Fall is upon us (finally!) here on the East Coast and I am thrilled. Its one of my favorite times of year, full of warming spices, hearty produce and delicious flavors. For some reason when the weather turns chili I always want to bake bread. My daughter (now 3 years old) loves to dump and stir and help me back, so bread is the perfect recipe to bake with her.

This bread recipe is seriously yummy and pretty customizable. The original recipe called for whole oats but I was out so I used steel cut. When I went in the pantry for honey I realized we had used it all so I used organic maple syrup instead. Guess what? It worked! This bread is perfect as-is or lightly toasted with a little butter and jam for breakfast or a snack with tea.

Check out the recipe below and share in the comments your favorite seasonal dishes! I'm glad to be back and excited about cooking and sharing recipes again with you.

Oatmeal Whole Wheat Maple Bread

Ingredients
1 cup water
1 cup milk (I used whole)
1 packet active dry yeast
2 tbsp. pure maple syrup (not pancake syrup...leave Mrs. Butterworth on the shelf for this one)
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups AP flour
1 cup steel-cut oats
4 tbsp. melted unsalted butter
1 tbsp, kosher salt

Instructions

1. Pour water and milk into a microwave-safe bowl or large glass measuring cup and heat 45-60 seconds until the mixture is about 115 degrees. Pour into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle in the yeast. Gently stir in the syrup and let it sit for about 10 minutes until the mixture is foamy.

2. Add in both flours, the oats, butter and salt then stir using a dough hook on medium speed for about 6-7 minutes. You want the texture of the dough to be smooth and elastic with just a little stickiness to it.

3. Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and transfer the dough to that bowl, covering lightly with a clean tea towel. Set in a warm area to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.

4. Once the dough is doubled, punch it down and press it out into about an 8x8 square. Tuck in the sides (like you're rolling a burrito) and roll it into a log shape. Place into a lightly greased loaf pan.

5. Cover with the tea towel again and let it rest for about 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 40-50 minutes until the loaf is browned on top and sounds hollow when you tap it.

6. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the bread cool for about 10 minutes before removing from the pan and cooling to room temperature (if you can wait that long to taste it!) before serving.

Original recipe adapted from Girl Versus Dough

Printable Recipe


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Monday, August 10, 2015

Mysteries & Savory Scones


I love to read, its a bit of an addiction, but one I hope to cultivate in my daughter as well. I usually try to read 100 books each year, but this year I've found quite a few series I like and have read even more than usual - its only August and I've read 84 books! One of the genres I enjoy is foodie lit, especially if they include recipes. Stacey Ballis is one of my favorite authors in that genre, so is the fabulous Ruth Reichl.

However, thanks to goodreads, I stumbled upon a series of mysteries that also have a cooking/magic element (2 of my favorite things!) by Bailey Cates last week and quickly blew right through the first 4 books (my library doesn't have the 5th yet). I decided to try one of the recipes featured in the book this week and was pleasantly surprised at how delicious it was.

This recipe for savory Cheddar Sage Scones from her book "Brownies & Broomsticks" is perfect to accompany a soup or salad for a lunch or light dinner, or serve them alongside an afternoon tea for a yummy snack. Scones are so easy to make, the keys to perfect ones are to use super-cold butter and not over-mix them. These turned out flaky, tender and delicious, I can't wait to try them again. I just used some leftover mild cheddar I had in my fridge, but I think they'd be fantastic with a sharp white cheddar. This is a great base recipe too, you can always switch up seasonings and cheese or even add dried fruits. I love the sweet/salty combo of fruit with cheese so white cheddar and dried cranberries will be my next attempt!

Cheddar Sage Scones

Ingredients
2 1/4 cups AP flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp, kosher salt
1 tsp. dried rubbed sage (I like to use Penzey's)
6 tbsp. butter (cut into small cubes and frozen for at least 15 minutes)
2/3 cup cheddar cheese (shredded)
1 egg
1/2 cup milk (I used whole)

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Set aside ¼ cup flour in a small bowl. In a medium bowl combine 2 cups flour, baking powder, salt and sage. 

Add chilled butter and cut into flour by rubbing with your fingers or using a pastry blender until the consistency of rough cornmeal. Add the grated cheddar to the ¼ cup flour and toss to coat. Shake to remove excess flour and add to pastry mixture, tossing with your hands to evenly distribute the cheese. 

Whisk together the egg and milk. Add to flour mixture, stirring lightly with a fork until ingredients are moistened and just hold together. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead twenty times. 

Add more flour to the surface if needed. Pat into an 8-inch circle, slightly higher in the center than on the edges. Using a very sharp knife, cut eight equal wedges. Place scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, slightly apart from one another. Bake for 12–14 minutes, until golden brown.

Recipe courtesy of Brownies & Broomsticks by Bailey Cates

Click Here To Print The Recipe

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