Monday, April 30, 2012

Makeover Monday: Cherry Berry Crisp

As of Saturday, my husband and I are officially moved in to our new house.  Are we unpacked, organized, or cleaned up?  Nope!  In the process of moving, I have learned a few things about myself.  First, I can successfully barter my peanut butter cookies for a new paint job.  Second, I have no discernible upper body strength.  And third, I am undeniably a foodie.

How do I know for sure that I am a foodie?  Here are a few signs:
You might be a foodie if you have more moving boxes labeled "kitchen" then all your other boxes combined.  You might be a foodie if your clothes are lying in haphazard piles on the floor of your beautiful walk-in closest, but your Kitchen-Aid, food processor, and pots and pans are neatly tucked away in your 100-year-old kitchen cabinets.  And last, but not least, you might be a foodie if you are posting on your food blog when you don't even have internet in your own house (or even a Starbucks or McDonald's with free Wi-Fi!)

In the spirit of moving, not having internet, and having a whole room full of unpacked boxes in my home that I suppose I must deal with at some point, I'm not going to spend a ton of time on this post.  However, I will probably still spend more time writing about this cherry berry crisp than I spent actually making it.  This is one of the easiest homemade desserts you can make.  And it is delicious and healthy!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Chewy Sugar Cookies

I have made a lot of sugar cookies over the years.  Usually I stick with the rolled and decorated cookies.  They are a childhood favorite and a holiday tradition in my family.  I have been using the same recipe to make decorated sugar cookies since my mom taught me how to measure sugar as a young whippersnapper.  In the last few months I have branched out by making chocolate sugar cookies and dark chocolate sugar cookies with cocoa butter frosting.  But I have never made sugar cookies like these.  

I came across this recipe for chewy sugar cookies in a Cook's Illustrated magazine and was immediately interested.  Regular sugar cookies are soft and fluffy.  And while they are always delicious, I was intrigued by the idea of a sugar cookie that was chewy.  Plus, the pictures of the crackly topped cookies were just calling my name.  I had to make them!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Makeover Monday: Sweet and Sour Chicken with Fried Brown Rice

Add Chinese food to the list of things I didn't like as a kid, and now can't get enough of. In case you're keeping track at home, that list now includes chocolate and beans as well. I think Chinese food was one of those things I just decided one day I didn't like and I refused to eat it. I went many, many years without trying it. That changed in college when I experienced the food nirvana that is Panda Express. I don't even remember the first time I gave Chinese food another chance, but I'm so glad I did.

Unfortunately, I don't make Chinese food at home very often. I have no good explanation for this. It just doesn't happen a lot. Tragic, I know!  But the excuse I'm going to use today is that when I get Chinese food, I get chicken.  And most of the recipes I have for Chinese chicken are fried. I'm not a food saint, but food just doesn't get fried in my house. A few weeks ago I remembered that I had a recipe for sweet and sour sauce scribbled in a cookbook and I decided it was time to try it out. But I wasn't going to put it on pieces of fried chicken. So I took a shot at pan-frying some chicken pieces and adding this sauce to make my own healthier version of sweet and sour chicken.  And I'm happy to report that it turned out even better than I had hoped!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Perfect Cheese Omelet

If you have been searching my recipe page for breakfast ideas, you might have noticed that I don't have any egg recipes.  That's because I hardly ever make eggs.  There are two reasons for this.  First of all, I don't love eggs.  I will eat them, but only if they are covered in enough cheese and salsa that they don't really taste like eggs.  Give me a waffle smothered in sticky sweet syrup over an omelet any day! 

Second of all, I'm not great at cooking eggs.  I don't really have many recipes for making eggs and they just never seem to work out for me!  I either cook them until they are the consistency of rubber, or I under cook them and they just plain gross me out!  I have no self confidence when making something as simple as a fried egg.  Forget about something like an omelet that actually takes a little bit of skill!  

So when I saw this recipe in a Cook's Country magazine that claimed to make the perfect cheese omelet, I knew I had to try it.  I figured if anyone could help me make decent eggs it would be the good folks at America's Test Kitchen.  And as usual, their recipe didn't disappoint!  I finally have an omelet recipe that I know will turn out perfect every time.  And believe me when I say that if I can do it, you can do it!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Makeover Monday: Pumpkin Cinnamon Roll Bread

I swore to myself I was done with pumpkin for a few months.  But I lied.  Recently, I used up the last of my pumpkin stash to make this pumpkin cinnamon roll bread.  In my defense, I had some pumpkin left over from my pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies, and I used pumpkin in this recipe not just for flavor, but for makeover purposes.

This tasty dish is a bit of a Frankenstein.  I don't even know what to call it!  It is a pantry clearing experiment gone very right.  I adapted it from a recipe that called itself a biscuit, but it really isn't a biscuit.  It's kind of like a cinnamon roll, but it's not rolled and it doesn't have yeast.  It's kind of like a quick bread.  But what's in a name?  What you really need to know is that this is delicious stuff!  I'm going to call it pumpkin cinnamon bread because I guess it's more like a quick bread than anything else.  It has a half whole wheat bread layer with pumpkin taking the place of cream, a layer of cinnamon roll-like filling, another bread layer, another cinnamon/butter layer, and it's all topped off with maple icing.  And it's all good!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Butter Pecan Cake with Maple Meringue Frosting

Last Monday I mentioned that my husband was making his first ever from-scratch cake for my birthday, under my supervision.  Here it is!  It is probably not shocking that I chose a cake with my latest obsession, maple and pecan.  This recipe is adapted from Cook's Country, so I knew it would be fantastic.  And it was.  If you looked up "fantastic cake" in the dictionary, it would read, "a rich, buttery (2 sticks!) yellow cake with pieces of toasted pecans, topped with a light, airy meringue frosting sweetened with maple syrup, garnished with maple candied pecans."  At least that's what it would say if I wrote the dictionary!  The lightness of the frosting perfectly contrasted the heaviness of the cake.  And did I mention that I like maple and pecans together?  We had some of this cake with a hot cup of coffee one evening and I thought I was going to die of happiness.  I didn't though.

If you look through my step-by-step pictures, and have made a cake from scratch before, you might notice that the preparation method is backwards from the standard cake prep of creaming butter and sugar, then adding flour.  Cook's Country calls this "reverse creaming."  They claim it leads to a cake with a tighter crumb.  I can now fully back up their claim.  After cutting a few slices, I realized that I had left hardly any crumbs.  I have made cakes before that almost fell apart upon cutting so I was thrilled to have a cake that stayed together so well!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Makeover Monday: Lighter Cheesy Pastitsio

I love all things pasta.  I could probably eat it every day and never get tired of it!  But I rarely make cheesy pastas because cheesy pasta is just code for fatty pasta (as is creamy, or alfredo!).  So this recipe for lighter cheesy pastitsio instantly piqued my interested.  I had never heard of pastitsio, but it had cheese and pasta so I thought I would give it a try.

This recipe was already made-over for me so I can't take credit for that.  Basically this dish is just made with skim milk and reduced fat cream cheese and mozzarella.  I did make a few changes to increase the flavor.  I added some pepper because I need a little spice in my life.   I used Italian-style diced tomatoes as an easy way to up the flavor, and I topped it off with a sprinkling of Italian seasonings.  The sauce was pleasantly creamy and delicious.  I certainly didn't miss the extra fat!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Double Bean Mexican Lasagna

Tomorrow is Good Friday, which means it is the last meatless Friday for my fellow Catholics and me.  I've been sharing vegetarian and seafood recipes all during Lent, and I figured it was about time to pass along one of my favorite meatless meals, double bean Mexican lasagna.  I got this recipe from a coworker several years ago.  She had cut it out of a newspaper (I think it was the Topeka Capital Journal) and thought us dietitians might like it.  She was right!  This is a great vegetarian meal that I love to make year-round.

Calling this a lasagna is using the term loosely.  This dish is similar to a traditional lasagna in that it is layered, but it uses layers of corn tortillas instead of noodles. In between the layers of corn tortillas is a hearty bean and sauteed vegetable mixture, and a generous helping of melted Mexican blend cheese.  It has a bit of a kick to it, but isn't overly spicy.  The mixture of vegetables, including onion, green peppers, and tomatoes is nice and colorful so it's easy on the eyes, and the taste buds.  Oh, and did I mention it has lots of melted cheese?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Monster Cookie Bars

These cookies are nothing new to my world.  This isn't some newfangled recipe I tried for the first time recently.  This has been one of my favorite cookies since I was a kid.  Monster cookies!  The combination of peanut butter, oatmeal, chocolate chips, and M&M's is irresistible! 

I still remember the first time I experienced the sugary bliss that is monster cookie bars.  The local small-town bank my parents used was thanking its customers by giving them a pan of monster cookies.  Unlike most cookies, these are baked in a pizza pan instead of as individual cookies.  They didn't last long in our house.  Once we had tasted monster cookies, we couldn't get enough of them!  So my mom got the recipe from a bank employee and I have been loving them ever since.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Oven-Baked Bass

I loved going fishing when I was a kid.  In the summers, my dad would take us kids with him when he went to check the cows and we fished in the little ponds in the pastures.  But we never caught fish big enough to eat.  One weekend every summer we went camping at a bigger pond a few counties away with some family friends.  A bigger pond meant bigger fish, and we did eat some of those "keepers".  But I was always too busy swimming to be involved in the cooking of those fish.  Ah, simpler times!

I hadn't been fishing in years until recently when a neighbor took my husband and me fishing.  To my surprise, we actually caught some pretty good bass.  (I should note that by "we" I mean my husband and my neighbor.  I caught baby fish!)  Our neighbor was nice enough to clean a few fish for us so I got to try my hand at baking fresh-caught fish.  From what I recall about the fish preparation of our camping days, it involved dredging cleaned fillets in a cracker mixture and deep fat frying.  That wasn't going to happen in my kitchen!  So I did a quick internet search and came up with a bunch of non-fried bass recipes.  I chose a simple recipe that included olive oil, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, minced garlic and an oven.  It sounded like a winning combination to me!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Makeover Monday: Oatmeal Banana Pancakes

In case you didn't know, today just happens to be my birthday.  Don't worry if you didn't send a present.  I accept late entries! :)  I have been spoiled with several birthday celebrations already, including a trip to Bentonville, Arkansas yesterday and some great food!  My husband has traditionally baked me a Funfetti cake for my birthday, which I love.  But this year we are making a cake from scratch, together.  He needs supervision in the preparation of anything that doesn't come in a box!  I am really excited about the cake we are making and can't wait to share with you.  I'm not saying what kind we are making, but if you've been reading my blog, I don't think you will be surprised with what I've picked out!

Anyway, I haven't exactly been eating healthy in the last few days, but Makeover Monday must go on!  I thought a pancake recipe would be appropriate to share today in the spirit of my birthday.  Why pancakes?  While my family always partook in the tradition of cake and ice cream for birthdays, we had another tradition when I was growing up.  We always had a special breakfast for the birthday boy or girl on his or her birthday morning, no matter what day of the week it was.  So you might have to get up a little early in the morning, but you were going to get pancakes and presents, so it was worth it!  While the pancakes we had back then probably weren't particularly healthy, any pancakes made at my house now are.  That includes these delicious oatmeal banana pancakes!