July 31, 2012

Banana-Quinoa Waffles

So my breakfast adventures continue. You might have noticed a pattern in my posts in the last couple of weeks. I am determined to fix my breakfast issues. For the longest time I have fought the idea of adding more whole grains and reducing the amount of refined carbs that I consume. This change has been in part due to  my husband deciding to start a new slow carb diet. At first I thought the whole thing was a little crazy. After two months he has lost a large amount of weight and is doing great. My two boys and I are not following in his dieting footsteps. However, I have started adding a lot more whole grains into our diet, especially at breakfast. Gone are white rice, regular pasta and I have limited the amount of baked goods such as bread that I make with white flour. I have discovered that I love white whole-wheat flour. It is great to cook with and my kids don't notice that they are eating whole-wheat. Last week I tried a new recipe for Banana-Quinoa Waffles from Parents magazine, which looked easy and perfect for a family breakfast.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 1 hour and 30 minutes of total time, 30 minutes of which is active and makes 10 waffles. I was rushed for time when I made this recipe so I omitted letting the quinoa sit in the fridge to chill for an hour or more. Instead I let it sit for approximately 10 minutes and then followed the recipe as written. To make one cup of mashed bananas it took two ripe bananas. I topped the waffles with maple syrup and no berries, since my two boys raided the fridge and ate all the fruit before I had time to make the waffles. They were delicious even without any additional fruit.

These waffles only lasted a day in my house. My two boys went back for seconds, thirds and then ate the last two waffles within the day that they were made. I really liked the banana taste in the waffles and the quinoa was great for nutrition and produced a great texture. Overall, a recipe that I would definitely make for breakfast again in the future.

For the recipe go to Banana-Quinoa Waffles.

July 30, 2012

Alpine Muesli

As I've stated in a few of my previous posts I am determined to be better about eating breakfast. My son starts school in two weeks and with the start of school my eating habits go quickly down-hill. I am great about making my two sons eat a healthy breakfast, I just don't follow my own advice. Honestly, I have never been great about eating breakfast. Growing up my dad worked nights and my mom left for work before I went to school. So when it was time for me to eat breakfast my dad was getting ready to bed for the day and I would literally eat peanut butter out of the jar. My mom tried really hard to get me to eat, she even left pre-made breakfasts for me. It never worked. I preferred the peanut butter on a spoon. If given the choice now and if my metabolism was the same as when I was younger I would still be eating jars of peanut butter a week. I love peanut butter. I know better now, but it is still a daily struggle with myself. Last week I tried a new recipe for Alpine Muesli from Martha Stewart Living magazine, which I was hoping would help to encourage me to eat breakfast.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes 3 hours and 50 minutes of total time, 20 minutes of which is active and makes 8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients for this recipe at my local grocery store and I made no modifications to the ingredients. For the chopped fruit I used plums and for the sliced fruit topping I used strawberries. I had planned on also using raspberries, however, my two children ate almost all of the fruit out of the fridge before I had the change to make this recipe. Luckily I had just enough fruit. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

As written this recipe needs some work. First, I was not a fan of the fresh orange juice. My two boys refused to eat their servings due to the overly citrus taste. If I was to make this again I would make the following changes. I am not a huge fan of citrus, but if you like the taste of fresh oranges, then I would use vanilla almond milk instead of cows milk. The low-fat cows milk and the orange juice did not work well together. Almond milk would solve this problem. Personally, I think the recipe would be better without the orange juice entirely. I liked the whole recipe, except the citrus taste. So leave out the citrus and add a little more honey and this recipe will be a great way to start the day.

For the recipe go to Alpine Muesli.

July 29, 2012

Sweet Whole-Wheat Couscous with Dried Blueberries and Almonds

With my oldest son starting school in two weeks I am dreading the daily breakfast struggle. My son is great about getting up and taking a shower, but horrible when it comes to his breakfast habits. He will waste a ton of time not eating and then minutes before we have to walk out the door want to have something to eat. It can be very frustrating. This summer I have been working on making quick and easy breakfasts in the morning to keep my two boys happy and full. While they would be happy with eating pancakes every morning, I have been trying to introduce more whole-grains and protein into their diet and breakfast provides the perfect opportunity. This weekend I tried a new recipe for Sweet Whole-Wheat Couscous from Parents magazine.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It takes 20 minutes of total time, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 3 cups. I did make a few modifications. My two boys aren't big fans of shredded orange peel so I left it out of the recipe. For the milk I used vanilla flavored almond milk, my boys prefer almond milk over soy so I prefer using it for drinking and baking. In addition to the dried cherries I also added dried blueberries sprinkled on top. I love just about any type of dried fruit and add it to a variety of breakfast foods. The leftovers re-heated very easily in the microwave the next morning so don't worry if you don't eat everything in one sitting. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My husband and I really liked this recipe. I liked that it has a great taste and uses whole-wheat couscous which I was recently able to find at my local farmer's market. My two boys were a little more skeptical. They picked around their bowls, finally trying their servings. I wasn't sure if they would finish their bowls so I was surprised when my youngest ate his whole bowl and and then half of mine. Overall, this recipe is a great way to get protein and fiber into your diet and was very child friendly.

For the recipe go to Sweet Whole-Wheat Couscous.

July 28, 2012

Nectarine Pancakes

This summer has flown by. I didn't realize how quickly until I found out that my oldest son starts first grade in two weeks. Two weeks, I can't believe how fast time has gone. Since I only have a couple more weeks with both of my sons home everyday I have been trying to bake and cook with my oldest son as much as possible. He absolutely loves spending time in the kitchen with me and I use the time to teach math and reading skills. One dish that we make frequently together is pancakes. I love how easy it is to make a great homemade breakfast with only a few ingredients. However, I haven't always loved pancakes. As a gift this last Christmas I received a new griddle/grill. I was very hesitant to use the griddle part since every pancake I had made previously either burned or was raw in the middle thanks to my disco era stove. All that changed the first time I used my griddle, pancakes are pretty great. There are so many ways to make pancakes and when they don't burn or end up raw they are a great breakfast food. This last week my oldest son and I decided to try making the Nectarine Pancakes recipe in a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 20 minutes of total time, all of which is active and makes 10 pancakes. Since I was making the pancakes on a griddle I chose not to use the 1 tablespoon of butter. I try to reduce fat in recipes if it is unnecessary and the butter didn't seem to be needed. With the first 4 pancakes I put the sliced nectarines on top as stated by the recipe. My boys weren't huge fans of the nectarines baked in so for their servings I served the nectarines on top after the pancakes were cooked. For kids I would recommend cutting up the nectarines and actually putting them directly into the batter.This could also work well for adults who are texture sensitive. I used my griddle on 400 degrees and my pancakes took longer than the suggested 3 minutes per side, I would say approximately 5 minutes each side. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I love recipes that are easy to put together on a busy weekday morning. This recipe fits that description perfectly. It was very easy to put the ingredients together and cook and it was nice having breakfast done in only twenty minutes. I liked that the pancakes were very fluffy and sweet and the nectarines were a nice way to add fruit to a breakfast recipe. Overall, a delicious way to start the day.

For the recipe go to Nectarine Pancakes.

July 27, 2012

The Best Blueberry Muffins with Applesauce

I love fresh fruit. This is my favorite time of the year when there is a large variety of fresh fruit both at the grocery store and local farmer's markets. Of all the fruit available my favorite by far is blueberries. I love blueberries by themselves, with cereal, in baked goods, pretty much anyway they can be used in relation to food. My two boys have also fallen in love with all types of berries and will literally eat pounds every week. I have to hide berries that I buy for baking or they will be eaten within a day. This week I was pleased to find a great batch of blueberries at my local store and was excited to find a recipe for The Best Blueberry Muffins in the July issue of Parents magazine.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 12 muffins. I did make a few modifications. First and most importantly I substituted unsweetened applesauce for the 1/3 cup vegetable oil. Since I used applesauce my cooking time was increased by approximately 8 minutes. I also turned my muffin pan 90 degrees halfway through the baking time to promote even browning. Instead of using a ice-cream scoop to fill the muffins I just poured it straight into the pan. I don't have a dishwasher so I try to save time on dishes as much as I can and the ice-cream scoop seemed more work than it was worth. Finally, I chose not to use paper liners. I know a lot of people love them and they look great on a plate. However, I prefer to just put the muffins straight into the pan. My two boys eat the majority of the muffins that I make and would just rip the liners into shreds. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys loved this recipe. They didn't notice that I used applesauce instead of oil and the taste of the fresh blueberries was delicious. These were great for breakfast for my kids and I. By cutting down on the oil they make a great way to get more fresh fruit into my family's diet without being overly high in fat. Overall a delicious way to use fresh berries.

For the recipe go to The Best Blueberry Muffins.

July 26, 2012

Healthy Energy Bars

When I was younger I was very active. I was on the swim team, I danced and I competed in marathons. All of my free time involved doing something physical. After having kids all my free time started being eaten up by spending time with my kids (which don't get me wrong I love!). Taking them to t-ball practice, play-dates, and school activities. My workouts have been delegated to workout videos and yoga. While my type of workouts have changed I am still very active. I hardly ever sit down and I am always looking for something to eat to keep my energy levels up. As I was looking through the pages of the July/August issue of EatingWell Magazine I noticed a recipe for Energy Bars which looked perfect for my busy workout and life schedule.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes 1 1/4 hours of total time, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 12 bars. I chose to double this recipe. My boys have been known to eat the majority of any granola bar recipe that I make so in order to actually have enough energy bars I figured I should double the recipe. I was unable to find straight pumpkin seeds, so instead I used a combination of sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Instead of using light corn syrup I went to the health food store and bought brown rice syrup. For the rolled oats I used old-fashioned since that is what I already had at home. I also bought the crispy brown rice cereal at my local health food store. I tried my regular local grocery store and wasn't able to find it at all. Instead of following the recipe to press the bars before going into the oven I modified to make it easier. I sprayed a spatula with non-stick cooking spray and pressed as hard as I could with my body weight. This method worked well and was easier than the written instructions. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I wasn't sure if my two boys would eat these energy bars. They aren't overly sweet from the brown rice syrup, which I liked, but with kids it can be hit or miss. I was very happy when my oldest told me they were delicious. My two boys ended up eating more than half the batch. I liked that these bars are filling, not overly sweet and have a great taste. They were perfect after one of my workouts and I would definitely make these again.

For the recipe go to Energy Bars.

July 25, 2012

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

I have a slight cookie obsession. Not just a little crush, but a lifetime love of basically any type of cookie. I pretty much blame my father. When I was little my mom would go to sell Tupperware at parties and my dad and I went to the bakery down the street. They had the best cookies and I was able to buy whatever I wanted. I am thankful that I also inherited my dads awesome genetics that have helped to keep me thin over the years even with questionable food choices. In college I started the bad habit of eating a giant cookie for lunch everyday. Notice I say as lunch not with lunch. Over the years my friends and family have learned that I bake when stressed. Not a batch of cookies, but literally dozens and dozens. My two boys have followed in my footsteps and can smell a cookie baking from a mile away. Last week I tried a new recipe for Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies which was easy enough for my oldest to help me bake.

This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes a total time of 45 minutes and makes 15-20 cookies. I did make a few modifications to this recipe. I did not let the dough sit in the fridge as suggested by the recipe. My two boys were ready for cookies and not in the mood to wait an additional 30 minutes. I also did not find it necessary to add milk in order for the dough to come together. My cookies took 3-5 minutes longer to cook than the 9-11 minutes suggested. Longer cooking times are normal for my disco-era oven so your cooking times might be shorter. Finally, I made my cookies on the smaller side. My youngest does better with smaller cookies, big cookies turn into big messes. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I think these cookies lasted a total of a day in my house. My two boys ate two of these cookies a piece as soon as they came out of the oven. I liked that the cookies have oatmeal, but don't taste oat like. To me they taste more like a chocolate chip cookie with oats and a hint of cinnamon, which I really liked. If you aren't a cinnamon fan I would suggest cutting the total amount of cinnamon down to 1/2 teaspoon. Overall, a great new cookie recipe.

For the recipe go to Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies.

July 24, 2012

Yellow Squash Brownies

I absolutely love brownies. On more occasions than I would like to admit I have eaten an entire batch all by myself. There is something so perfect about chocolatey brownies right out of the oven. Since my oldest son is home from school for the summer I have been baking up a storm. Both of my boys are in major growth spurts and have been eating everything in sight. So I was very grateful when friend gave my 15 pounds of yellow squash a couple of weeks back. After canning, making cake and yellow squash chocolate chip cookies I was still left with pounds of yellow squash. So I thought long and hard about what to bake and came up with the notion of baking brownies. I browsed around the internet until I found a recipe for Squash Brownies, which looked easy and a perfect solution for my squash abundance.
This recipe has 16 ingredients. It takes 30 minutes of total time and makes 20 servings. I made a few modifications to this recipe. Most importantly instead of using oil or butter I substituted unsweetened applesauce. I substitute exact amounts when using applesauce. This recipe would also work and have a richer flavor if you substituted 1/2 cup of applesauce and still used the 1/2 cup of butter. When using applesauce the baking time is always increased. On average my baking times increases 5-15 minutes. I normally check my baked goods frequently to make sure that they are baking correctly and pull them out as soon as they are done. I chose to leave out the nuts, my two boys are not fan of brownies with nuts and will normally turn up their noses. Most importantly with this recipe make sure to adequately get all the liquid out of the squash. I place the shredded squash in-between a layer of paper towels and squeeze it over my sink. There will be a very large amount of water, keep squeezing until no additional water comes out.

My two boys loved this recipe and had no idea that they were eating brownies made with squash. I loved how the brownies were still very cake like even though I substituted applesauce. Spreading the top with chocolate after they were baked made for a delicious and easy frosting. This recipe was a great way to use my overabundance of squash and would also work very well with zucchini or pattypan squash.

For the recipe go to Squash Brownies.

July 23, 2012

Raisin Scones

I have a serious soft spot for scones. It steams from my mother who collected antique tea pots and tea cups. When I became a teenager we would go to high tea at the Four Seasons hotel in downtown Seattle. We would go all out, it wasn't jeans and t-shirts, I would dress in vintage Gunny Sack dresses (which are great if you have never worn one, love them!) and we would make a whole day of the event. Once I started working I decided to take my mom to Victoria, BC and to the Empress Hotel. She had read about their high tea for years and she was so excited. We had a great time and the weekend that we spent is one of my favorite memories. When my mother passed away my oldest was only nine days old and I was unable to go home. One of my aunts saved my mother's two favorite tea cups before they were scooped up by other family members and carefully shipped them across the country to my house. I am forever grateful to my aunt for this act. You can see the two tea cups on the corner of the photo. With all these memories tied to high tea and my mother scones are one of my greatest reminders of these times. Last week I tried a new recipe for Raisin Scones, which looked very simple and perfect for an afternoon tea at home with my two boys.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of total time and makes 12 to 14 scones. I did make a few modifications. I have never used a pastry blender or two knives for my biscuits or scones. Instead I use my hands, making sure to only break the butter into pea size pieces and not to overly handle the dough. Over-handling the dough results in tough scones that stay flat when baked. When cutting out the scones make sure to twist the biscuit cutter. This twisting allows the edges to bake correctly in the oven. Avoid having to re-work the dough frequently; try to space the scones close to one another when cutting them out to avoid making the dough tough. To brush the top of the scones with the egg wash I use a silicon pastry brush. I love using silicon brushes, they are great for a variety of baked goods and make a beautiful finish on scones and bread.

My two boys ate three of these scones as soon as they were out of the oven. They have a nice taste, without being overly sweet and are very simple. I would recommend eating these scones within a day of baking. Scones really are best when warm and go stale quickly. This is definitely a recipe I would make again!

For the recipe go to Raisin Scones.

July 22, 2012

Kofta Kebabs

My two boys are growing up fast. Not just in the figurative sense, they are growing like weeds. In one day they can eat enough for two adults. I don't know where they put all the food, they are both very thin and eat constantly throughout the day. I really wish that we could swap metabolisms. While my metabolism is still great, it isn't what it was in my teens. In order to make everyone satisfied at dinner time, I have been buying a lot of marked down meat at the grocery store. I love when meat gets marked down. It saves a ton of money and lets me buy meats such as lamb which are normally out of my grocery budget. Last month I was able to find 8 packages of lamb for only 2 dollars a pound, so I stocked my freezer. Then I had the task of figuring out what recipes would work for 8 pounds of lamb. One recipe that I found for Kofta Kebabs from Allrecipes.com looked very easy and full of flavor.

This recipe has 13 ingredients (including skewers). It takes 1 hour and twenty minutes of total time and makes 28 servings. I made a few modifications to this recipe. First of all I forgot to buy parsley at the grocery store, so I omitted it from the recipe. Secondly, I ran out of time before dinner and didn't have the time to let the skewers sit in the fridge before grilling. So I skipped this step. Additionally I chose to grill four meatballs on each skewer. The one meatball on each skewer idea seemed like a waste of skewers and time for me. Plus my kids with multiple skewers would have spelled disaster. Since I use an indoor grill my total grilling time was longer than the recipe. My kebabs took approximately 10-15 minutes to cook. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These kebabs were very good. I do think that they would benefit greatly from a yogurt sauce. I served my kebabs with a simple yogurt sauce made from yogurt, cucumber and mint. Tahini would also work well. My two boys loved that this dinner was served on skewers (with lots of supervision). I would suggest with younger kids to take the kebabs off the skewers when serving. I served the kebabs with a couscous salad with olives, cucumbers, and red onion. They were delicious together. Overall a simple and delicious lamb recipe.

For the recipe go to Kofta Kebabs.

July 21, 2012

Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins

I am horrible about breakfast foods. I have tried unsuccessfully over the years to encourage myself to like breakfast and all my attempts have failed. Really I can look all the way back to my childhood and see the basis for my breakfast issues. When I was a senior in high-school my idea of a healthy breakfast entailed a cup of coffee and a spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar. This wasn't the best beginning to my day which started with working two hours before I went to a full day of classes, then hours of swimming and dance classes in the evenings. College was even worse, I moved from a scoop of peanut butter to chocolate chip scones or giant cookies (and still lots of coffee). After having kids I started to try to change my habits. I was successful at getting my kids to eat healthy every morning, as for me I'm still a work in progress. Some days I do great, others I have a large cup of coffee and a scoop of peanut butter. Oh well. One breakfast food that I have found that my whole family enjoys is muffins. Last week I tried a new recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins which looked very easy and a great way to start the day.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It takes a total of an hour and 25 minutes and makes 12 servings. I did make a few modifications based on ingredients that I already had in my pantry. I did not have dark chocolate chips so instead I used semi-sweet. For the raspberries I used frozen since the raspberries available locally lately have been pretty mediocre. Instead of a 1/2 cup of butter I substituted unsweetened applesauce. I have discussed before how I prefer to substitute applesauce for butter or oil in a large number of baked goods. It keeps the baked goods moist while greatly reducing the fat. Finally, instead of adding vinegar to milk I used the low-fat buttermilk I already had in the fridge. Since my muffins had applesauce instead of butter my overall cooking time was much longer, approximately an additional 10 minutes. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys loved these muffins and didn't notice the substitution of applesauce for butter. I liked how they were great for breakfast or a snack and had a taste that was appealing to both my kids and my husband and I. These muffins could be modified to use a variety of fillings. They would be delicious with chopped apples and nuts, especially with the applesauce modification. Overall a very easy breakfast muffin recipe.

For the recipe go to Chocolate Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins.

July 20, 2012

Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal Waffles

I love to cook and bake from scratch as much as I can. There is something very satisfying about seeing all your hard work nicely presented on a plate. However, with two very active and growing boys there are some days that just getting any meal on the table is a struggle, much less something elaborate or complex. This is particularly a problem with breakfast. I would love to be one of those people that pops out of bed and makes cinnamon rolls before anyone else wakes-up. I'm not one of those people. My mornings start with me dragging myself out of bed at 530 to make my husbands lunch and enjoy maybe a half hour of peace before one of my kids decides to wake-up and demand food. This is quickly followed by dogs needing to be taken out, a pile of dishes to be washed and general morning craziness. All of this is before I even get to make my first cup of coffee. Due to this morning insanity I have learned that quicker is better in regards to breakfast. I still prefer to try to make breakfast at least partially from scratch, so I have found ways to cut corners in the morning. I stumbled upon a great recipe for Soul-Satisfying Oatmeal Waffles from Taste of Home Magazine, which uses packaged maple brown sugar oatmeal packets to save time.

This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes start to finish and makes 10 waffles. I made a few modifications. Instead of 2% milk I used the organic non-fat milk I already had in the fridge. I didn't notice that the taste was any less rich making this substitution. Additionally, I chose to leave out the chopped pecans. My two boys aren't big fans of nuts in most recipes, so I let them out completely. For the oatmeal I already had maple and brown sugar packets in my pantry cupboard, so that was the flavor I used. I would assume this recipe would work with a variety of oatmeal flavors, there could be a number of great combinations! I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I love how easy this recipe is to make and that is uses instant oatmeal packets to save time. I seem to always have oatmeal packets leftover from when my mother-in-law goes shopping and this was a great way to use them. My two boys really loved the taste and I was happy that breakfast literally only took minutes to prepare. A very easy recipe that is great for busy weekday breakfasts.

For the recipe go to Soul-Satisfying Oatmeal Waffles. (registration required)

July 19, 2012

Dark Chocolate Raspberry Tofu Pie

One day in middle school I decided that I was going to be a vegetarian. I grew up in Seattle and it seemed that in the 90's everyone was turning away from meat. So I jumped on the bandwagon. Only problem was that both of my parents still ate meat and I had no idea what to eat. I would love to say that I was great about eating beans and a variety of healthy foods. That would be a lie. I was horrible with my diet. I was heavily involved in swimming and dancing in high-school and I lived on yogurt and fake meat products, and cheese. A lot of cheese. There was one other food that I feel in love with and still use frequently today, tofu. I love how easy and versatile tofu is to use in baking and cookies and my oldest son loves it! I eventually gave up on being a vegetarian after over ten years. I was a horrible vegetarian to begin with and I became very anemic. I didn't give up tofu though and I love to use it in recipes. This week I tried a new recipe for Chocolate Raspberry Tofu Pie from Eating Well Magazine, which looked very easy and delicious.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes 2 1/4 hours of total time, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 10 servings. I did make a few modifications. First instead of semisweet chocolate chips I used dark chocolate chips. I'm a big fan of dark chocolate and use it frequently in recipes. For the raspberries I used frozen, the fresh raspberries at my local supermarket were less than stellar so I passed. Since my kids were going to be eating the majority of the pie I substituted a low-fat graham cracker crust instead of a regular. My blender had a horrible time with the tofu, I would suggest using a food processor instead. My pie came out much more purple than the magazine photo, but it was still yummy! I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

With my oldest home for summer break we have been going through a ton of food. I literally have been baking twice a day to keep up with my two growing boys. I love that this recipe uses tofu in a dessert. The texture was delicious and both of my boys absolutely loved this recipe. I will definitely be making this again!

For the recipe go to Chocolate Raspberry Tofu Pie.

July 18, 2012

Yellow Squash Cake with Icing

This is the time of the year that I am always swimming in garden vegetables. I am fortunate that all my friends and family know that I cook and bake and throughout the summer I am always being dropped off pounds and pounds of vegetables. It is nice to know that I have such a great network of people that know that I will treat their garden fruits and vegetables with love and appreciation when I cook and bake. While I love savory dishes using vegetables, as I have stated numerous times in the past I am a big fan of sweets. So are my two boys who this morning ate an entire batch of brown sugar oatmeal waffles. Since I crave sweets so frequently I have learned to bake cakes, cookies and baked goods with modifications. A major modification that I make to almost all recipes using large amounts of vegetable oil is to substitute with unsweetened apple sauce. It keeps cakes and breads moist without overly effecting the taste or texture. A couple of weeks back I received 15 pounds of yellow squash, so I set about finding a recipe to utilize them in and came across a great recipe for Summer Squash Bread from Allrecipes.com.
This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes 1 hour of total time and makes 16 servings. I made some major changes to this recipe. First instead of using 1 cup of oil I substituted 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce. I also cut down the sugar to a cup and a half, two cups of sugar was too high for my kids. Make sure to squeeze all the water out of the squash before using. I place my shredded squash between layers of paper towels and squeeze over the sink. You will be able to squeeze a large amount of water out of the squash, keep squeezing until no additional water comes out. Finally, instead of using a loaf pan I baked my bread in a bundt pan. I also topped my finish bread with a powdered sugar/butter glaze. My total baking time was slightly longer since I used a bundt pan, I would approximate 15 additional minutes. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys really liked this recipe. It was easy enough that my oldest son was able to help me bake it and since I baked the cake in a bundt pan it made more than the 16 servings suggested by the recipe. The changes to the oil and sugar made this recipe much healthier without sacrificing on taste. Overall a great way to use garden vegetables.

For the recipe go to Summer Squash Bread.

July 17, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cakey Buttermilk Pancakes

I love breakfast foods. Growing-up my family always had huge Sunday breakfast with both of my parents cooking eggs, potatoes, pancakes and sausage. After I moved out on my own my breakfast habits became horrible. My idea of a great breakfast was a mocha and cookie from the student center on campus. These weren't little cookies either, they were literally half the size of my head. As I look back I am so thankful that I inherited my dads fast metabolism and those cookies never caught up with me. When I got married I started making waffles. I love waffles and they are very easy to make for breakfast. Pancakes were another story. Every time I tried to make pancakes they would burn or the middle would stay uncooked. Then I bought my griddle/grill and all that changed. If you don't have a griddle I highly recommend one. I have a gas stove and it can be finicky at best, so making pancakes can be a task to say the least. However, my griddle has completely changed my opinions on pancakes. No more burning, or underdoness, just deliciousness. Recently, I started using a new recipe from the Food Network for Cakey Buttermilk Pancakes, which is very easy and works with a variety of mix-ins.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes twenty-three minutes of total time and makes 3 to 4 servings. I made one large modifications. I prefer my pancakes to have some sort of add-in, so I added dark chocolate chips to the batter. Additionally the original recipe tops with blueberry maple syrup, I chose to top my pancakes with strawberries and butter. Since I used my griddle I left off the two tablespoons of butter for cooking since I felt it was an unnecessary fat. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

These pancakes are delicious. They are light and fluffy and the dark chocolate chips give the pancakes an almost dessert taste. Another great mix-in would be fresh fruit such as raspberries, blueberries or chopped strawberries. My two boys love this recipe and can eat a whole batch in a day. This is a definitely a keeper recipe in my household, sure to be made frequently in the future.

For the recipe Cakey Buttermilk Pancakes.

July 16, 2012

Cincy Chili Pizza

When I first met my husband he talked about two things: pizza and Cincinnati style chili. Luckily for him I was able to see past his food obsessions. I quickly realized that in order for our relationship to prosper I would have to learn to share his love of all things Cincinnati chili. So the next time I flew home to visit my family in Seattle we stopped at the Goldstar chili in the Cincinnati airport. Since that time I have eaten Goldstar, Skyline, Dixie (from the can) and some mom and pop place on the way to Cincinnati. As hard as I tried to resist loving Cincinnati style chili I have grown to appreciate it almost as much as my husband. Since that time, our family has expanded to include our two boys and they have followed on the chili tradition, my oldest son's first finger food was a Skyline chili cheese fry, and he fell in love. Given that my whole family loves Cincinnati chili as much as they do I have learned to experiment with recipes. I have made Cincinnati style chili from scratch on the stove, crockpot, with lamb, beef, and (my favorite) Cincy Chili Pizza. My husband and I first started making this recipe a couple of years back and it is delicious! Here's the recipe:

  • One can of Cincinnati Chili
  • Shredded mild cheddar cheese to taste 
  • French fried onions to taste
  • Pizza crust (I linked to the recipe I normally use)
I have never tried putting rinsed canned kidney beans on this pizza, but I'm sure that it would also be delicious. To prepare the pizza follow the following steps:

Open the jar of chili. Drain off all the fat from the top of the can. Most of the time this is approximately 1/4 of the cans contents. Spread out your pizza dough into a rectangle on a 11 X 13 inch baking sheet. Make sure to roll the dough out so it touches all corners. Alternately this recipe will also work with a round pizza shape if you prefer. Spread the entire contents of the Cincinnati chili onto the dough. Top with shredded cheddar cheese. I normally bake my pizza on a baking sheet placed on a pre-heated pizza stone, but it you don't own one it works fine without. Let bake at 425 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. Open the oven and spread the French fried onions over the entire top of the pizza. Place the pizza back into the oven for approximately 5 minutes or until the top of the onions is nicely browned and the crust is completely done. That's it!

This pizza is always a huge hit in my house and I make it frequently. While I make my crust from scratch it would also work with store bought pizza mix. When I first started making this pizza I used the pouch pizza mix from Kroger and it worked well. You really should try this pizza, it's delicious!

July 15, 2012

Southern Biscuits

Growing up in Seattle I never really ate biscuits. My mom made tons of pancakes and waffles, but biscuits were relegated to restaurants and those were mediocre at best. Fast forward to grad school and I ended up in West Virginia and the middle of biscuit country. There is a whole chain of biscuit fast food restaurants which specializes in biscuits and biscuit sandwiches called Tudors. I quickly fell in love and was determined to learn to make southern biscuits. My first ten attempts were pretty much disasters, I could not get a hang of the idea of not overworking the dough and sadly my biscuits resembled hockey pucks. Slowly I learned to make proper biscuits thanks in large part to my mother-in-law. Everything was perfect until my husband and I went to Washington state for a visit. My husband made the mistake of ordering buckwheat biscuits and gravy at a restaurant. Really I should have warned him, but I didn't. I tried one bite of the dish and could tell they were not proper biscuits. My husband tried to be nice about the dish, but has since re-told the story to every West Virginian that he knows to explain how northerners just can't make biscuits and gravy properly. Since we are very serious about biscuits in our house I rarely try new recipes, but I am teaching my oldest son to bake so we tackled the recipe for Southern Biscuits from the Food Network this weekend for breakfast.

This recipe has 7 ingredients. It takes a total of 40 minutes of time and makes 12 servings. All the ingredients are very basic and I already had all of them in my pantry cupboard and fridge. I did make a few changes, I made my biscuits larger than the recipe suggested, so I ended up with a total of 9 biscuits. My family prefers large biscuits so we can slather them in jam or gravy and the larger the surface area the better. To ensure that your biscuits turn out perfect make sure to do a few essential steps. First, make sure that the butter is very cold. I cut my butter into pieces and then place it in the freezer for approximately 5 minutes. This allows the butter to stay cold while being cut into the dough. This is essential for having fluffy biscuits. Secondly, and most important barely touch your dough after adding the buttermilk, mix the ingredients until they form a dough and no more. Very gently pat the dough into a circle and press your biscuit cutter into the dough, turn the biscuit cutter in a circle. This turning ensures that the edges will turn out perfectly in the oven. Close the door to the oven and do not open for at least ten minutes. If you open the door too soon your biscuits won't rise, so avoid the temptation. That it!

I love how easy this recipe is to follow and the finished biscuits have a great taste. The recipe was so easy that my 6-year-old was able to help me with the entire recipe. The taste is slightly sweet and the buttermilk creates a great flavor. They were perfect with the homemade strawberry jam that I canned last month, yum! I will definitely make this recipe again.

For the recipe go to Southern Biscuits.

July 13, 2012

Golden Sweet Cornbread

My two boys can eat a lot of cornbread. When I say a lot I mean a huge amount. They love cornbread with honey, butter, jam, peanut butter, you name it they love it. While my husband is a die hard fan of cornbread made with very little sugar, my boys and I love our cornbread very sweet. The sweeter the better. I will go so far as to add honey to my sweet cornbread, I love my baked goods very sweet. Since my husband is currently on a slow carb diet I am able to decide on the foods that my boy and I currently eat without my husband's input. In relation to cornbread this is a great thing, it means I can make my cornbread as sweet as I want. So this week my oldest son and I made a recipe for Golden Sweet Cornbread from Allrecipes.com.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes 10 minutes of prep and 25 minutes of cook time and makes 12 servings. The only change that I made to the recipe was to use egg substitute instead of one real egg. My kids love egg substitute and I was out of regular eggs so I used it instead. I also found that my cooking time took slightly longer than 25 minutes, closer to thirty. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I was very impressed by how well this recipe turned out. The taste was sweet and it was a great combination of crumbly and moist. My two boys feel in love with this cornbread and ate almost the whole batch by themselves. It was particularly delicious with honey and melted butter. I will definitely make this again!

For the recipe go to Golden Sweet Cornbread.

July 11, 2012

Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

To say that I love pasta would be an understatement. Growing up I was a very picky eater and my mom had a horrible time for a couple of years getting me to eat anything other than McDonald's or cheese. I was lucky that I was so active in swimming, dance and running that I burned off the McDonald's and cheese without consequences, but my mom realized that neither constituted a healthy diet. Then one day my mom decided to make me an Asian noodle dish that she created. I can still remember the first time she made it, I fell in love. To this day it is possibly the best thing that I have ever eaten. With this success my mother branched out to cooking other pasta dishes, with similar reactions from me. So throughout my teens pasta became a household stable. Once I moved out on my own I ate a lot of pasta, but rarely if ever cooked any recipes at home. After getting married I started cooking as much as I could. It was a great way to relieve the stress of working on my thesis and I found some delicious recipes. Now I cook with my two boys and they have the same amount of zest towards pasta that I do. Recently we tried a recipe for Rigatoni in Tomato Sauce from Saveur magazine.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes an hour and a half of cooking time and 15 minutes of prep and makes 6-8 servings. I had no problems finding any of the ingredients at my local grocery store. I did make a few modifications. I chose to leave off the sliced parsley leaves, I struggle with my two boys with eating parsley especially when it's used as a garnish. For the onion I used a vidalia sweet onion, I love them when they are in season and use them frequently. To crush the tomatoes I place them in a plastic bag, seal it and break the them apart with my hands. This makes for a much less messy clean-up. Finally, for the cheese I used Romano since it was what I already had in my fridge. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I love simple recipes full of flavor. This recipe was easy enough that my two boys were able to help me in the kitchen, while still retaining taste. It would work with a variety of pasta types including spaghetti. Plus it made enough for dinner for my family of four plus leftovers for lunch the next day. Overall, an easy pasta sauce recipe that is versatile enough to be used with spaghetti, bow ties etc.

For the link go to Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce.

July 9, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

This has been a very busy week for my kitchen. I have canned, baked, cooked and prepped just about every fruit and veggie that can be grown in our region. It has been a good year for gardens and my counter was literally overflowing with squash at the end of last week. It was a tad bit overwhelming, but I dove in and canned 15 pounds of squash and pickles and baked chocolate zucchini muffins. However, even after all this work I was still left with a number of zucchini. Never one to let food go to waste, I decided to make a loaf of zucchini bread, a family favorite. After searching through recipes online I came across a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread from Allrecipes.com which looked delicious and easy to make.

This recipe has 13 ingredients. It takes an hour and 15 minutes to prep and cook and makes 20 servings. I made a number of modifications to this recipe. I am not a fan of using a cup of oil in baking, so I substituted the oil with unsweetened apple sauce. Growing up my mother was diabetic so I became used to substituting unsweetened applesauce in recipes from an early age. It is a great substitute for sugar and oil and keeps baked goods very moist. I left out the walnuts, I am not a walnut fan and my boys won't eat any baked goods with walnuts or pecans. Finally, instead of using two loaf pans I baked the bread in a bundt pan. I love using a bundt pan in sweet bread recipes, it makes a great shape and is easy to slice into servings. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I was very pleased with how pretty this bread came out. I topped the servings with frozen berries and sprinkled the top with powdered sugar. Substituting the oil made for a moist bread that wasn't overly heavy. I used bittersweet chocolate for the chocolate chips, which was nice since it didn't make the bread overly sweet. This recipe is a great way to use zucchini and will be a recipe that I will use again next year when I am swimming in garden vegetables.

For the recipe Chocolate Zucchini Bread.

Here is a pic of the squash and pickles I was busy making. My boys love pickles and ate all 20 jars I canned last summer!

July 8, 2012

Buttermilk Waffles

I love breakfast foods. Growing up Sundays always meant a huge breakfast spread. My dad would wake up and fry the bacon and potatoes while my mom made waffles and eggs. I loved it! In college when I went home to visit my dad would still never let me touch the potatoes (apparently I've been told I'm too impatient and they don't brown properly) and my mom would still wake up to make fresh coffee. I cherish these memories of my parents and I still love breakfast foods in large part due to the great emotions they stir-up. Of all the breakfast foods waffles are my favorite. My husband prefers pancakes, but he is always out voted since my two boys love waffles as much as I do. This past week I was in a baking mood and hadn't made waffles in a few months, so out came the waffle maker and I made one of my favorite recipes for Buttermilk Waffles from Saveur magazine.

This recipe has 8 ingredients. It takes 10 minutes of prep and cook time and makes 4 servings. Making only 4 servings of waffles would be no where near enough for my boys and I so I always double the recipe. One of the major changes I make to the original recipe is that I love to add mix-ins to my waffles. For my waffles I love fresh fruit, blueberries and raspberries. The waffles for my boys I add dark chocolate chips since they aren't overly sweet, but still have a great chocolate flavor. I also add approximately a teaspoon of vanilla to the batter, I feel that it makes the taste more rounded. Top with pure maple syrup and real butter and breakfast is served!

My two boys love this recipe. They get very excited when I tell them that I am making waffles for their breakfast. Their favorite topping is fresh or frozen fruit, they love it! I like that the waffles always turn out light and fluffy and it works with a variety of mix-ins and toppings. These are definitely a stable for quick, easy breakfasts in my house!

For the recipe go to Buttermilk Waffles.

July 7, 2012

Chocolate Zucchini Muffins

My husband likes to tease me that I eat a lot of carbs. He's right, I would be a horrible person on a low-carb diet, I just can't live without bread, muffins, pretty much baked goods in general. I know that I have my dad to blame for this love of all things bread related. Growing up when my mom was out doing her tupperware parties my dad would take me to the donut shop down the street and we would literally eat a dozen donuts between the two of us. I was also so thin that the doctors put me on ensure to gain weight, which did nothing except make me hate the taste of vanilla drinks for the rest of my life. Needless to say I have been lucky most of my life that eating a large amount of carbs has never had the effect that my husband claims they have had on his waistline. However, now that I am in my thirties I have been trying to find ways to modify my favorite carb snacks into healthier versions. This week I had an abundance of garden veggies and thought that the Chocolate Zucchini Muffin recipe on Allrecipes.com would be a good starting point for a healthier muffin.

This recipe has 14 ingredients. It takes 35 minutes of prep and cook time and makes 2 dozen muffins. I made a number of ingredient modifications to this recipe. First I never have cardamon in my house, it's not a spice that I use frequently. Given that I didn't have the spice and I had no desire to run to the store in 100 degree heat I left it out completely. Second, the thought of using 1 whole cup of oil made me cringe. Instead I substituted 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce. The original recipe only uses cocoa powder. I also added 1/2 package of mixed bittersweet and milk chocolate all natural chocolate chips. Finally I ended up with 18 muffins total since I like my muffins on the larger size. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My two boys ate the majority of this batch of muffins and had no idea that they were eating zucchini or that I substituted the fat with applesauce. I was very happy with how moist the muffins were with the applesauce and the taste was delicious. It was definitely a great way to use an overabundance of garden vegetables and is a recipe that I would use again in the future.

For the recipe go to Chocolate Zucchini Muffins.

July 4, 2012

Homemade Sesame Seed Buns

With two active boys my house is chaos most days. As they have gotten older my days have gotten longer with less things actually getting done. This summer has been particularly trying. I thought that having my oldest home for the summer would be great for both of us. While I do enjoy my sons company, we have struggled with his desire to do his workbooks and summer assignments. I guess I'm a mean mommy, just because it's summer doesn't mean that I let him not do school work. Each day I expect him to finish at least two pages of math and two pages of handwriting. Now granted he is far ahead in reading and math, but to stay that way we work at it. I have also discovered that a great way to work on his math is to have baking adventures. He loves to bake with me and hasn't yet caught on that he is actually learning at the same time. I hope this trend will continue, I love the time that we spend together in the kitchen. One of the recipes that my son and I bake often is Homemade Sesame Seed Buns from Saveur Magazine.
This recipe has 9 ingredients. It takes approximately 4 hours of total time, 15 minutes of which is active and makes 12 buns. All the ingredients are basic and I already had them all in my pantry cupboard. I chose to leave off the sesame seeds since my oldest isn't a fan of them. Additionally, I changed the rise times in the recipe. For both of the rise times I decreased them to one hour. I have tried using the 2 hour and 1 1/2 hour rise times and I didn't see a difference in the finished taste, so I have stayed with the decreased times. I also made 10 buns instead of the 12 suggested by the recipe. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

I love how easy this recipe is to follow and the finished buns are always delicious as hamburger buns. I have used this recipe for pulled pork, hamburgers, sandwiches, basically any dish in need of a bun and they are always delicious. After making this recipe a few times I have stopped buying store bought since this recipe is so much better. If you want a different topping poppy seeds would also work well or black or regular sesame seeds. Overall a great bun recipe!

For the recipe go to Homemade Sesame Seed Buns.

July 3, 2012

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ever since my potassium became dangerously low in January I have made an effort to eat foods rich in potassium. I drink a lot of low-sodium v-8 and I attempt to eat bananas. The emphasis here should be on the word attempt. My husband and two boys love bananas, I can't stand them. In baked good bananas are delicious, but there is something about the texture of uncooked bananas that I can't stomach. So I have the problem of buying bananas and not eating them for a week. During the colder months this isn't really a problem since it takes the bananas a while to turn brown. However, with the 100 degree days that we have been experiencing, my bananas have been going almost black in a matter of days. So what I have I been doing with all these over-ripe bananas, I have been baking. Last week I tried a new recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins from Taste of Home Magazine which looked perfect since my whole family loves the taste of chocolate and banana together.
This recipe has 10 ingredients. It takes 25 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of baking and makes 24 muffins. I did make a few modifications to the ingredients. I decided to make these muffins at the last minute and I didn't have any chocolate chips. The store across the street from my house only had dark chocolate candy bars, so I substituted 6 ounces of chopped chocolate bars for the chocolate chips. Secondly, I only had two bananas, instead of the three suggested by the recipe and I left out the walnuts completely since I don't like nuts in cookies and muffins. Finally, I made 18 large muffins instead of the 24 suggested in the recipe. I like large muffins and 24 small muffins wouldn't work for my family. Rotate the muffin pan halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My boys ate 10 of these muffins within the first day that I made this recipe. The dark chocolate and banana work well together, without either being overpowering. I liked that the muffins were moist and using the dark chocolate candy bar made for delicious bursts of chocolate flavor. Definitely a recipe I would make again!

For the recipe go to Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins.

July 2, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies with Almond Meal and Whole Wheat Flour

This last week has been a week in need of chocolate. Being without power in 100 degree heat is miserable at best. Luckily we were able to save all of the freezer and most of the fridge food thanks to kind friends that still had power and let us store items in their fridge and freezers. I also lucked out with literally buying the last two bags of ice in the entire store on Saturday. I have never seen such long lines at the gas station and fast food restaurants as I did this weekend. Thankfully we now have power, but I still know a lot of people including my in-laws who aren't scheduled to have power until the end of the week. Thanks to all this stress I baked cookies today. Whenever I start to feel stressed or have a major life event I bake. The phone call from my mother telling me that she had brain cancer started a two day baking session which resulted in over 15 dozen cookies. All my neighbors were thankful and it helped me to work through my feelings. I don't cry, I bake. So for all those people without power and trying to stay cool in the heat, I am sending some virtual cookies to you. Here is the recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies from Eating Well Magazine which I baked today to relieve all the pent up stress leftover from the weekend.
This recipe has 11 ingredients. It takes 35 minutes of total time, 10 minutes of which is active and makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies. All the ingredients are very basic and I already had everything in my pantry cupboard or fridge. For the chocolate chips I used semi-sweet since that is the type I prefer for baking since they don't make cookies overly sweet. I did make a few modifications to the recipe. Instead of grinding the rolled oats, which seemed time consuming, I substituted almond meal. I already had almond meal in the fridge, so it was a convenient substitution. Additionally, the recipe states to bake the cookies for 15 minutes. I baked both my cookies sheets at the same time, so I reduced the total cooking time to 10-12 minutes. Finally, I ended up with 2 dozen cookies, instead of the 2 1/2 dozen suggested. I followed the remainder of the recipe as written.

My boys and I ate these cookies in less than a day. They really are delicious and I like that since they have whole wheat flour and almond meal I don't feel as guilty when my boys have seconds. These cookies stay small and don't spread out like traditional chocolate chip cookies, but the taste is perfect. Just don't look for the cookies to look like regular cookies when they are done or they will burn in the oven. With only 99 calories and 5 grams of fat per cookie, this recipe is a nice change from traditional chocolate chip cookie recipes. Great for a treat or an after school snack!

For the recipe go to Chocolate Chip Cookies.
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