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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Keeping it real

Just so you don't go thinking I'm some ultra healthy, feeding my family homemade meals every night of the week kind of gal, I thought I'd bring you down to Earth a bit. My usual "It's Thursday night and my husband is on the road for the next 4 nights and it's just me and the boys" dinner is this: eating what's left of the mac and cheese directly out of the pot while watching my kids watch the Suite Life. If I'm lucky, there might even be some crumbs leftover from the chocolate pop tarts they had for dessert. That's my totally glamorous rockstar wife's life. Sorry if I disappoint.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Root Vegetable Bake

I love my Aunt Kathy. She's my mom's baby sister and to me, she's a great mix of a cool aunt but also a motherly figure in my life. She never had children of her own (by her own choice) but you better believe that all her nieces and nephews claim her as one of their mothers. She's every bit a grandmother to my boys as their real grandmothers are. Kathy has an amazing gift of hospitality and can cook like nobody's business. I often go to her for recipe and entertaining advice and I love to cook for her.

She's mentioned her "Root Vegetable Bake" several times and I finally attempted it today. The rustic smell of root vegetables roasting and caramelizing in the oven made our house so warm and cozy on this rainy and dreary day. Although I originally made this as a side dish I decided to serve them atop a bed of mixed greens; making a simple yet hearty winter salad. I simply took some baby romaine lettuce, drizzled some homemade maple dressing over, topped with a hefty serving of the root vegetables and seasoned with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Add a few walnuts for some crunch. This is my favorite recipe of the moment! Soooo good. Listen up...don't be afraid of turnips, rutabagas and parsnips. They are SO delicious and tasty when roasted and all the vegetables take on a slight sweetness. You really want to vary your root vegetables, otherwise you won't have as flavorful of a dish! About the only root vegetable I didn't use was carrots, just because I wasn't in the mood.

Here's the method:

Root Vegetable Bake

Use an assortment of your favorite root vegetables. What I use:
1 red potato
1 turnip
1 rutabaga
1 sweet potato
1 onion (red or yellow)
1-2 parsnips
1-3 stalks of fresh rosemary
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
sea salt

Peel and chuck the vegetables (you may leave the skin on the red potato), making chunks of similar size, about 1-2 inches. Toss in a large bowl with several good turns of olive oil, rosemary leaves, and a few good splashes of balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-45 minutes, or until caramelized and tender. Stir a couple of times while they're in the oven. Don't overcook.

Great fresh out of the oven or on top of mixed greens.

Maple Dressing:
1/4 C. Maple syrup
1/4 C. Olive OIl
2 TBSP Cider Vinegar.

wisk to combine all ingredients.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Super simple and delish sweet potatoes

Ever watched that show on the Food Network called "Healthy Appetite"? It's great and Ellie Krieger really has a lot of great recipes that are tasty and healthy. They are usually quite simple to prepare as well, using fresh ingredients.
I needed a good sweet potato recipe the other night and I found one of hers and decided to try it out. I like my sweet potatoes on the sweet side. If I'm at a steakhouse and I order a baked sweet potato, I'll usually ask for extra brown sugar and cinnamon. I know some like theirs totally plain but my sweet tooth has a high tolerance and can handle some extra sweetness.

I chose Ellie's recipe because it calls for no sugar, but honey. I figured I'd let the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes come through for onece, and save my family from unnecessary sugar, even though I love my sweet potatoes swimming in butter and sugar.
This recipes was great! Super easy to prepare, simple, and yes, sweet! You could probably add in some maple syrup to give it some more sweetness but it's really not necessary. Simple, wholesome, and it even passed the kid test!

Honey Roasted Sweet Potatoes
by Ellie Krieger

2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch pieces and put in a 9 by 13 baking dish. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, honey and lemon juice. Pour mixture over potatoes and toss to coat. Sprinkle with the salt, and bake, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour, until potatoes are tender.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

I pretty much kicked it in the kitchen today. I think just knowing that snow was in the forecast made me want to fill the house with cozy warm smells. To me, snow is all about what you have going on in the kitchen!

So, my first project before lunch was to make strawberry jam with these wonderful Florida strawberries that are coming into season. I'm glad I jumped on it because there's no telling what will happen to the strawberry crops after all this cold weather this weekend. I enlisted the help of my 7 year old and we ended up making 9 jars. I had hoped to make two batches but was a little short on strawberries so I decided to us the rest of the strawberries for our dessert tonight. Enter the ready made organic granola pie crust I picked up on sale at Kroger a while back. Hmmm....a pie crust + fresh strawberries=Strawberry Pie!
I looked around online and picked out this recipe from Betty Crocker:

Fresh Strawberry Pie
Obviously I skipped the crust part since I already had it on hand and I added a few tablespoons of sugar to the cream cheese to sweeten it a bit. I also used 3 tbsp. of corn starch instead of 2. Pretty easy to make and a sweet taste of Summer on this cold night. Into the refrigerator it went to get set up for tonight.

I couldn't pass up making cookies on a snowy day, so while the boys played outside I whipped up some of Pioneer Woman's Oatmeal Crispies with white chocolate chips and cranberries. And just so you know, she uses shortening in hers, I use butter.

While those were baking, I got a start on our dinner, Asian style braised short ribs. I've been planning on making these for awhile now and got the meat from the Butcher's Market yesterday. I had never cooked short ribs before and I don't recall ever braising anything but after reading up on it in CL, I decided to give it a try. It was pretty easy to assemble, but you do have to plan ahead since it simmers on the stove for 2 to 2 1/2 hours. And I think it's important to have a good dutch oven, like a Le Cruset or a heavy cast iron one. I'm not sure if it would work as well in a regular stainless steel pot. But if that's what you have definitely try it. I love recipes that I can make in the afternoon and just let them do their thing so I can relax a little before dinnertime. Or go for a hike in the snowy woods. I served these up with buttered white rice and sauteed green beans seasoned with orange infused olive oil and seasoned salt. Let me say...the guys LOVED this dish! Wyatt loves short ribs! Who knew? Be sure to serve them up with lots of the juices spooned over. Sooooo good!

Here's my recipe, adapted from Cooking Light Jan/Feb. 2008:

Asian Style Braised Short Ribs:

Cooking spray
2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, trimmed and cut into 8 equal pieces
2 tablespoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon grated orange rind
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup dry sherry
2 cups sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 3 1/2 ounces)
1 cup fat-free, less-sodium beef broth
6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 (8-ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots, drained
1 (4-inch) cinnamon stick
1 (8-ounce) can diced water chestnuts, drained
4 cups hot cooked short-grain rice

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add half of beef to pan; cook 3 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Repeat procedure with cooking spray and remaining beef.

Add ginger, rind, and garlic to pan; sauté 30 seconds or until fragrant. Stir in sherry, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Add mushrooms; cook 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently. Add beef, broth, and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon); bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 2 1/2 hours or until beef is very tender. Stir in water chestnuts; cook for 5 minutes. Discard cinnamon. Serve over rice.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Golden Winter Soup

I have needed some inspiration lately in the kitchen. Spending so much time in the kitchen around the holidays made for some real burnout this past week and I needed something new to look forward to. I turned to an old Cooking Light issue (Jan/Feb 2008) and knew that the soup on the cover, Golden Winter Soup, would be perfect for this cold night. Surprisingly, the kids even ate it! I paired it with Rachel Ray's greek salad. Here's my adaptation of the delicious Golden Winter Soup:

Golden Winter Soup

3 tablespoons butter
4 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 good sized squash)
2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled russet potato (about 12 ounces)
2 cloves minced garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups sliced leek (about 2 medium)
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
4 Tbsp Agave or honey
freshly grated nutmeg, to tase (about 1/2 to 1 tsp)

12 ounces baguette, cut into 16 slices
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyère cheese
3 tablespoons chopped chives (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper (optional)


Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add squash, potato, garlic, salt, and pepper to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add leek; sauté 1 minute. Stir in broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes or until potato is tender, stirring occasionally. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Stir in half-and-half, agave or honey, and nutmeg. Cover and keep warm.

Arrange bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet; sprinkle evenly with cheese. Broil bread slices 2 minutes or until golden. Ladle 1 cup soup into each of 8 bowls; top each serving with about 1 teaspoon chives. Serve 2 bread slices with each serving. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, if desired.