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.

08 February 2012

kale and potato fritatta

I bought a bunch of kale the other day with the intent of making a green smoothie. You know... a fruit smoothie blended with with some a super veggie for extra nutrients. Yep, didn't quite get around to that, whoops. But I didn't want the kale to go to waste and I've needed another grab and go breakfast anyways so viola, breakfast fritatta!
I was originally just going to make a straight kale and onion fritatta until I saw the link for adding potatoes, and what a great idea! It gives the fritatta some heft and textural interest. I wasn't intentionally going the vegetarian route, so if you wanna throw in some meat, brown up some sausage and throw it in there, too.

Kale and Potato Fritatta
slightly adapted from Eggs on a Sunday

1 Spanish onion, peeled, cut in half, and sliced into strips
2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
3 C kale, remove the stem and chop into bite size pieces
2 tbsp canola oil
8 eggs
salt and pepper
special equipment: cast iron skillet or a skillet you can put into the oven

Preheat oven to 400. Beat eggs in a large bowl.

Heat skillet over medium heat. Add oil. Add potatoes, sprinkle with a light layer of salt, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add onions, sprinkle with another light layer of salt. Cook, stirring pretty regularly, until onions soften and start to turn golden and the potatoes are fork tender. (Add oil if potatoes stick to the bottom.) Add kale, sprinkle with a bit more salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper, and cook for 3-4 minutes or until wilted.

Give the eggs one more whirl with the whisk to make sure it's beaten and airy. Check that the bottom of the pan has a glisten of oil (so the eggs wont stick), and then pour the eggs over the veggies and stir until it's even. Stir a bit to make sure the kale and potatoes are evenly distributed, too.

Put in oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until it's all puffy. Take out of the oven. It will drop. Loosen the edges. Turn out onto a cutting board and cut into 6 pieces.

04 February 2012

stout brownies plus 6 savory Superbowl ideas

So the Superbowl is tomorrow. I'm a Redskins gal, so yeeaaaaahhhh... the game itself has never held that much excitement :-D For me, the Superbowl is good for exactly one thing: an opportunity to try out a new recipe! I opted for something sweet this year, but wanted to incorporate something superbowl-y. Like beer. Yup, there's beer in these here sweets: Stout Brownies.
I used double chocolate stout in these brownies, yum, and they have a deep chocolately flavor with a hint of the stout. I'm having a hard time explaining the texture, though. They don't have the crackly top or crisp edges that I love in brownies, but they do have an airy fudgy texture. Almost like a substantial, dense mousse. Like the freaky child of a cakey and fudgey brownie... they look like cake but melt like fudge. They'd benefit from chocolate chips to add textural interest, so I'll do that for tomorrow. Hopefully they'll be a nice balance to all the savory food I'll be pigging out on!

Stout Brownies
adapted from We Are Not Martha

1 C chocolate stout
2/3 C flour
1/2 C cocoa powder (I used dutch processed)
1/4 tsp salt
5 oz chocolate (I used 60%)
1 stick butter
1 C white sugar
2  large eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 365. Line a 9x9 metal baking dish with foil or parchment with a 1-2" overhang.

Pour 1 C stout into a liquid measuring cup (don't count the foam!) and allow to settle. Sift together the flour, cocoa, and salt and set aside.

In a double boiler (I used a metal bowl over a small pot of simmering water, make sure the bowl doesn't touch the water!), melt the chocolate and butter until smooth. Take off heat. Beat in sugar until thoroughly combined. Allow to cool to lukewarm. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla. Mix in the stout. Whisk in the dry ingredients until combined. (It will be a more liquidy batter than thick.)

Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 20-22 minutes or until a toothpick poked in comes out mostly clean. Allow to cool. cut into 25 (or 16) pieces. Enjoy!

AAAAANNNND.... Not in the mood for a sweet something at Superbowl? Here are 6 ideas for savory goods you can make, too: 

My absolute most favorite Guacamole and some Pico de Gallo

Turkey Chili (with lots of cheese!)

03 February 2012

morning glory muffins

I'm not a morning person. At all. I sleep until I have EXACTLY enough time to shower, groom, maybe blow dry my hair (more often then not I put it in a bun or pony tail), and (hopefully) make it to my daily 8:15 meeting on time. I don't take my time to do all that stuff, either, I hustle, checking my watch every free second I have. So unless it's a lazy weekend, my breakfast had better be grab and go... like a muffin!
I've been wanting something more substantial than yogurt and fruit, so I tried my hand at these healthy, not too sweet breakfast muffins. These are not your light almost cupcake like muffins you'll find at the store... these are hearty and dense, made with both yogurt and fruit plus whole wheat flour and oats and flax to boost the fiber content. This by itself plus a cup of coffee will last me until about 11, but when I eat it with another piece of fruit, I'm good until lunch time. Added bonus - they freeze well*, so you can grab a frozen one and have it as a nice 3pm snack to help you last until dinner. Morning, noon, or even night, these make a great treat.

Morning Glory Muffins
adapted from Cooking Light

1 C white whole wheat flour
1/2 C all purpose flour
1 C old fashioned oats
1/2 C brown sugar
3 Tbsp flax meal
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3 bananas, mashed
6 oz plain Greek yogurt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 C chopped walnuts
1/2 C pitted dates, chopped
1/2 C dried apricots, chopped
1/2 C dried cranberries, rough chopped
turbinado sugar, for topping (optional)

Preheat oven to 350. Prepare muffin tins -- spray 18 liners with cooking spray then put in tins.

Thoroughly combine all dry ingredients (from the flour to the salt) in a large bowl. Combine all the wet ingredients (from the bananas to the vanilla) in a smaller bowl and mix well.

Make a well in the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients and stir until about 80% combined. Fold in the add ins (from the walnuts to the cranberries) until evenly distributed and batter is just combined. Dish out evenly into the 18 liners. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until a a toothpick inserted comes out dry.

* If freezing, wait until they're cooled. Wrap in two layers of plastic wrap and then put into a freezer zip top bag.