20 March 2012

spinach and feta fritatta

It's been a while since I made an egg-based breakfast item, so here's a spinach and feta fritatta chock full of flavor and is healthy, too:
I'm a huge fan of these eggy bakes because you can make them ahead of time, choose any variety of flavor combinations (see here, here, or here). You can make them with meat or straight up veggie, like this one. This is obviously mostly spinach. Not gonna lie, I don't know all the specifics and I'm not a nutritionist or any kind of health professional, but I know it's one of those super veggies that's full of vitamins and fiber and stuff. Look how GREEN. You just know that HAS to be healthy! 
Now, it's not JUST spinach in there. There's a bunch of feta for a salty punch, onions for sweetness, and tomatoes for color and some acidity. I cut it into 4 hearty pieces because this'll be my breakfast for the week. Mmmm healthy.

Spinach and Feta Fritatta

10 oz box frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
1/2 large sweet onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 C fat free or regular feta
6 eggs
3 egg whites
a spot of oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8x8 glass baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Beat eggs and egg whites in a large bowl (something that gives you space to really get some air whisked in). Salt and pepper. Set aside.

Saute onion in a bit of oil over medium heat until it softens. Add in the spinach and evenly mix. Add salt and pepper. Mix in the tomatoes, then stir to mix evenly.

Give the eggs one more beating to incorporate some air and pour into the baking dish. Evenly add in the spinach mixture. Evenly sprinkle the feta. Use a spoon or fork to mix spinach and feta into eggs. 

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until center is set. After you take it out of the oven, use a knife or offset spatula and run it against the sides to separate the egg from the sides. Allow to cool a bit. You can cut it into as few as 2 pieces or as many as 8. Enjoy.

05 March 2012

slammin' shepherds pie

I love Sundays because I have plenty of time to cook something from scratch. None of this tired or rushed throwing a meal together stuff - that's the rest of the week for me, haha. Nope. Sundays I happily "slave" over a hot stove taking the time to season and taste and really enjoy the process of creating something delicious. Like this shepherds pie:
When I think of shepherds pie, this is EXACTLY how I imagine it should taste. It's meaty and has just enough gravy. Being a potato lover, I went slightly overboard with the mashed potato topping... although, really, is there such thing as too much mashed potatoes? It's hearty comfort in a pie dish, the kind of meal that makes a man go back for seconds, thirds, and probably fourths, depending on how much you scooped out each time. And IF there are leftovers, it reheats wonderfully to make a perfect Monday night leftovers dinner :-)

Shepherds Pie
adapted from allrecipes

Meat Filling
1 lb ground beef (I used 80/20, but I'd go up to but no more than 90/10)
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 C chopped baby carrots (cut them into thirds, so they're about 1/2")
2 Tbsp flour
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 dried rosemary, then crush between your fingers
2 tsp dried parsley
1 1/2 C reduced sodium beef broth
3 Tbsp tomato puree (because I had some leftover, better than having to open a new can of paste)
1 C frozen peas
salt and pepper to taste

Potato Topping
4-5 yukon gold potatoes, peeled
4-5 tbsp butter, cubed
1/2 C milk
1/2 C heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
handful or two of shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Special equipment: 9" pie or tart dish, and optionally an ice cream scoop

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and then start the potatoes because you can make the meat filling while you're waiting for the taters to come to a boil and cook: Cut potatoes in half lengthwise, then cut each half into even quarters. Put in a large pot or stock pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil. Cook about 10-15 minutes or until fork tender.

Heat a large pan (10"-12" and deep enough to fit the meat filling) over medium heat, and add the meat. Break up with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle a light layer of salt. (You may want to spoon off some of the fat that releases. Or not!) Add in onion and carrots and cook, stirring regularly, until meat is brown and onions are just starting to turn brown. Stir in frozen peas.

Stir in the flour, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, and parsley. Evenly combine broth and tomato puree in a bowl, then pour into the meat mixture. Add a little bit more salt and a few grinds of pepper and stir. (Don't add too much salt and pepper yet because the gravy will reduce, concentrating the flavors.) Simmer, reducing the liquid until you get to the gravy consistency you want (mine took about 15-20 min). Taste and season with more salt/pepper to your liking.

Let's not forget about the taters! While the meat is simmering, keep an eye on the potatoes. Drain them after they are fork tender, then return to the pot. Mash lightly, then add in butter, milk, and cream. Mash and whip until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the meat filling into the pie dish. Use the ice cream scoop to plop out an even layer of the potatoes over the meat. (You don't have to use a scoop - it's just a fast way to create a layer that'll be easy to spread evenly.) Spread out the potatoes to create an even layer, or get all artsy and make a design or something. Sprinkle with cheese. Put onto a baking sheet (to catch anything that drips) and put into the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and the cheese is melted. You can also add the step of turning on the broiler for a few minutes to get a browned crispy top... I plan to do that next time.
It's going to be ridiculously hot, so give it a while to cool down before you chow down!

27 February 2012

quinoa cereal with blueberries, cranberries, and almonds

The first time I had quinoa was as a dinner side dish - warm, savory and delicious with pistachios and dried cherries and some kind of vinaigrette. I've been curious about it since, scanning the interwebs for recipe ideas. Somehow or other I ended up making it sweet (shocker, lol), and as breakfast: quinoa "cereal" with milk, fresh blueberries, dried cranberries, and roasted almonds for crunch. Can we say HEALTHY?!
So, what is quinoa? Quinoa, pronounced "keen-wah", is something of a trendy health food that's making its way mainstream. By trendy I mean most people don't know what the heck it is, unless you're a blogger or a health foodie... but I hear about it more frequently (maybe because I'm both a blogger and foodie?) and am seeing it on more grocery shelves. Also, it's a seed, not a grain, even though it's often sold in the grain section because of the similar look and texture. It reminds me of a nuttier couscous. It's also a nutritional powerhouse, apparently, being an excellent source of protein and fiber and amino acids.

As breakfast, you can mix in lots of different fruits, dry or fresh. The quinoa itself provides many little mini crunches, but I need something bigger like almonds or pistachios for real textural interest. Next time I'd like it with blueberries and diced mango. I may also mix in some cinnamon and nutmeg and heat it up for more of a porridge feel, too. Lots of options here... as I'll also be using it as a dinner side in the future, so stand by for recipes one day.

Breakfast Quinoa Cereal for One
adapted from klutzy chef

1 C cooked quinoa (see below on how to prepare quinoa)
1/2 C vanilla soy/almond milk (or regular milk with 1/4 tsp vanilla extract)
1 tsp sugar (or other sweetener like agave or maybe maple syrup) to taste
1/2 C fresh blueberries
1/4 C dried cranberries
handful of roasted unsalted almonds, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Mix. Eat.
You can also heat up the quinoa, milk, and sweetener and then add everything else to it, too.
How to Cook Plain Quinoa

1 C quinoa
2 C water

Rinse dry quinoa in a fine mesh strainer under warm water for a few minutes. You're doing this to remove the bitter saponins (nope don't know what that is, but I don't like bitter, so I rinsed).

The instructions on my box of red quinoa said to put quinoa and water into a small pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce to low heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Take off heat and allow to sit, covered, for 10 more minutes. Fluff with a fork.

13 February 2012

PB&C Love Blossoms

There's a certain balance, complementing, and enhancing going on when sweet and salty get together. Like, who doesn't love the delicious union of chocolate and peanut butter? (Except maybe people allergic to peanuts... or chocolate...)
So if you need something salty for your sweetheart, or to sweeten up your salty friends... make these cute lil peanut butter and chocolate love blossoms. You can use the traditional chocolate kisses, but I thought the Dove chocolate hearts (thus "love") would be adorable for Valentine's Day or any day :-)

PB&C Love Blossoms
very slightly adapted from Bake at 350

1/2 C butter
3/4 C creamy peanut butter
1/3 C white sugar
1/4 C brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 C flour
44 chocolate hearts or kisses, unwrapped (you can unwrap while cookies bake)
more white sugar plus pink or red fine sanding sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 375.

Beat together the butter and peanut butter until smooth and combined. Beat in the sugars until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until combined. Add the soda and salt and mix until evenly distributed. Add the flour 1/2 C at a time, beating after each addition.

Mix about 1/4 C sugar and a few tablespoons of the colored sanding sugar into a small bowl. You can control just how intense the color is by how much of the colored sugar you add. I just wanted a hint, a blush of pink.

Scoop dough and roll into 1" diameter balls (I used my 1" scoop, pretty easy hehe). Roll in the sanding sugar and place on the lined cookie sheets about 1-2" apart. They won't spread much, so I was able to fit 20 on one sheet. Bake for 8-9 minutes or until just golden.

As soon as they come out of the oven, carefully press a heart or kiss into each cookie. Allow to cool. Eat or share!
One afterthought: If you're like me and happen to eat a bunch of chocolates while you're prepping and suddenly find that you won't have enough for every cookie you make... before baking, just use your fork to press criss-crosses into them and bake for 6-7 minutes.  Also cute!

11 February 2012

chocolate cut out cookies for your valentine

On Valentine's Day (and several other special days of the year, to include birthdays, weddings, and when my softball team wins), I want nothing more than to be sappy, happy, sentimental, and surrounded by puffy hearts and twinkly lights and pretty flowers. Yay hearts!
Regardless of if I'm single or lucky enough to be with a kinda awesome dude (hi!), I cheese OUT for Valentine's Day. My life is and always has been filled with love, and I get to "officially" recognize just how lovely life can be. I've been blessed with family that's pretty close despite the distances across states and continents (thanks Facebook). I've kept only the best of people in my life as friends and more (hi again, you rock!). Many of those friends have kept me company since childhood (high five to longevity). I have never had a traumatic Valentine's Day (heck one of my favorite ones was maybe 15 years ago spending a night with my other single girls giggling and watching a hot young Brad Pitt in Thelma and Louise). I never want for good food cuz I'm the one making it, haha. I get to SHARE said good food with the people in my life. Oh, and my car is hot and my home is cozy. Yup, lots of/to love in my life.

So, allow me to sweeten life up even more with some chocolate and hearts in one little cookie. I hope you get a chance to make these for someone who has made your life a little better, or for someone whose life you want to make better, or for yourself, cuz you make your own life Awesome.

Because these cookies ARE awesome. Perfect for Valentines Day, or maybe a bridal shower using the bride's colors, hehe (hi Miatta, congrats!). They taste like thin brownies. They're easy to work with and hold their shape, too. Instead of royal icing, I decorated with glace icing. I'm still pretty new to piping and stuff, so it's better you go HERE for the recipe and instructions. One note is that they do need to dry overnight, so plan ahead! They turned out dainty and pretty, and I hope the person getting these will love them as much as I do!
Brownie Roll Out Cookies
Adapted from The Busty Baker

3 C flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C cocoa powder (I used dutch processed)
1/2 tsp espresso powder
2 sticks butter
1 1/3 C sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

Sift together all the dry ingredients (from the flour to the espresso powder). Set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat eggs in one at a time until combined. Mix in vanilla. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients until smooth. Make sure to scrape down the sides a few times to make sure it's even.

Separate dough into 3 quart bags. Flatten out so it's about 1" thick, then press out the air and zip closed. Refrigerate at least an hour or overnight.

When ready to roll out cookies... preheat oven to 350. Flour your work surface, turn a pack of dough out onto it, flour that and flour the rolling pin. Roll out your cookies to about 1/8" to 1/4" thickness. Cut out and lay on parchment lined baking sheets. It's best to chill cookies on the pan for another 5-10 minutes before you bake. I baked the small 2" cookies for 5-6 minutes, and the larger 3-4" cookies for 6-7 minutes. Allow to cool on the pan.

When completely cool, decorate with icing (again, see this link) and allow to dry overnight so you can stack them.