Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sneaky Foods.....

My motivation for hiding vegetables in foods came to be when I met my husband Joe and his boys.  The guys were ages 7 and 9 at the time.   My Grandma always said that a way to a man's heart is through is stomach.  I thought gee, I've got a shoe in!  Well, initially it did not go as I'd expected.  Let me just say that it drives me absolutely INSANE to watch people picking through food…..absolutely crazy!  This coupled with a statement Jack made to me at dinner one night, "Ang, no offense, but my Dad is a way better cook than you."   What?

I’ve read a bit of criticism about the subject of sneaking healthy vegetables into kids favorite foods. Some critics claim that you are lying to your children……what? The way I look at it, if you can make anything you are cooking more healthy, why not? Most people struggle to get the 5 a day, and now they’ve upped the number to 10! There are times when kids simply will NOT eat certain vegetables. If texture is an issue, this is the perfect solution. The other fact of the matter is that vegetables actually add layers of flavor to the dish, so technically, they are loving vegetables!   My kids devour many of the foods I nutritionally “beef up” because they simply taste good!

The other issue is fiber. Most children (and adults) do not get enough fiber….I haven’t met a kid yet that would prefer a nice piece of whole grain bread with nuts and a tree bark looking substance sprinkled over the top over Wonder bread! When you add vegetables to foods, you are also adding fiber.

So there you have it. I will be posting my recipe for meat loaf next. Wait to see what I put in that!

Have a great Sunday!


Friday, February 26, 2010

Loaded Potato Soup

Comfort anyone?  This is the perfect soup to serve to get rid of a "chill."  This hearty and elegant soup is simple and uses very basic ingredients.   Serve with Irish Soda Bread. (recipe below)  Add a splash of half and half or cream if you wish.  The bacon is optional, but I hightly recommend it!  This soup tastes much like a loaded baked potato, it's fantastic!

4 strips bacon
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
3 large cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
3 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into ½” cubes
4 cups homemade chicken stock or low sodium canned
4 cups low fat milk, warmed
¾ cup all purpose flour
Cheddar cheese
3 green onions, thinly sliced

1)  Place a soup pot over medium heat and allow pan to get hot.  Cut bacon into small pieces and add to pan; cook until  nicely brown.  Remove bacon from pan with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on paper towel, set aside.  Remove all but about 1 tablespoon bacon fat, add butter and  onion and cook 5-7 minutes. Add fresh herbs, salt, pepper, and garlic. Cook another minute. Continue with medium heat through the entire recipe.
2) Add diced potatoes and broth to the pot.   Bring to a low bubble and cook for 22 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Taste a potato to be sure.
3) Warm milk in the microwave until warm. (not hot) Whisk flour into warm milk a little at a time.
4) Once potatoes are soft, mix the milk/flour mixture one last time to be sure it’s incorporated and add to the broth/potato mixture all at once. Stir often until the soup comes to a bubble and allow to cook for a few mintues longer.   Taste, adjust seasoning if needed.  Ladel into large serving bowls and garnish with cheddar cheese, green onion, and bacon.  Serve with a salad and a couple of slices of Irish Soda Bread and you have a very delicious and statisfying dinner!

*tip* when you whisk flour into warm milk it prevents lumps from forming.
**tip*  if you'd like to omit the bacon , simply add an additional tablespoon of butter.

Best Irish Soda Bread

I love this bread!  It is slightly sweet and has a very tender crumb.    It does not stay fresh long, freeze right after cooling if you won't be using in a day or two.  If you are lucky to have any left after a couple of days, it makes excellent french toast, bread pudding, or croutons.....YUM!  The recipe is simple and comes  together in minutes.

3 cups flour
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 cup white raisins
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 eggs, beaten
1 ¾ cups buttermilk (or add 1 teaspoon vinegar to 2 cup liquid measuring cup, fill cup with milk to 1 ¾ cups)

1) Preheat oven to 350’. Prepare 5 mini loaf pans with Pam cooking spray with flour. Set aside.
2) In a large mixing bowl, measure flour through raisins and mix well.
3) Make a well in the center of dry ingredients and add the wet ingredients all at once. Mix until just blended.
4) Divide among 5 pans. Bake for 25-27 minutes. Toothpick should come out clean.
5) Cool for 10 minutes in pan, then remove and cool completely. Wrap in cling wrap or put into decorative bags. Freeze immediately if you will not be using within a day or two.

*tip*when you add an ingredient like raisins to a batter, add it to the flour to coat, the raisins will not all settle to the bottom when baking.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

This week's "UFO".....Unidentified Food Object

Isn't this a beautiful vegetable?  I could see this with a few other vegetable varieties as a center piece.  Look for bright and fresh leaves.  The bulb portion should be firm and white.  You can see that it somewhat resembles an onion.  It has a slight "anise" taste that resembles licorice.  It can be enjoyed cooked or raw.   I use the bulb as well as the delicate leaves.  This vegetable is fennel.

Artichoke and Fennel Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

This salad is a very beautiful and refreshing alternative to lettuce salads.   The slight anise flavor blends very well with the gentle tasting artichoke.  The lemon vinaigrette, green, onions and fresh parsely add great flavor as well as color.  Beautiful, elegant, and delicious!  Serve alongside simply grilled salmon and brown rice pilaf....YUM!

2 fresh fennel bulbs with fronds
2 cans quartered artichokes, drained
3 tablespoons parsley, washed and chopped
3 green onions, rinsed and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh or bottled lemon juice
2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

1) Rinse thoroughly.  Trim off the bottom of the bulb and leave about 1" of the fronds, slice thinly, place in a large bowl. Remove the tender frawns, the deep green portion, and chop coarsely. (Do not use the celery looking stalks, they are very tough, they would be great in soup.) Add parsley and green onions.
2) In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil through the pepper. Pour over vegetables and toss gently. Taste, add additional salt and pepper if necessary.

*note-this is not a salad to be made ahead as the fennel tends to brown around the edges.   You could prepare the entire salad with the exception of the fennel and add just before serving.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tantalizing Tid Bits...Spring is almost here!!

As most of you know, I am an avid bird watcher.  Yesterday, while delivering vittles to a friend, I witnessed about 20 robins, yes ROBINS,  fly out of the bushes!  You would know from a previous writing that birds love to take shelter in thick green shrubs.   I have also seen yellow finches on my thistle feeder, typically I see them in more mild weather.   So the ground hog has nothin' on me!

Besides, Joe just reported that baseball spring training starts today.  Warm weather is on its way!

In light of the pending change of seasons, I'm going to next post a delicious springy salad...anyone tired of the typical lettuce, cucumber, tomato salad?  It will contain a "UFO."   Additionally, we officially begin the Lenten season today, I'm going to share some delicious, easy ways to prepare fish that your family will LOVE!

Have a blessed day!


Monday, February 15, 2010

Ultimate Beefy Mac n' Cheese.....

Thank you to everyone who participated in my poll.  It seems that we are all looking for great comfort foods at this time.  I couldn't agree more.  This recipe is the epitome of "comfort."   You can make it ahead and warm a day or two later.  This dish also freezes very well.  As always, I recommend making a double recipe, one for immediate use and one for later.  Wrap first with cling wrap, then a layer of heavy duty foil.  You can write on the foil with a sharpe pen, label the contents and date.  Use within a couple of months.

Beefy Mac-n-Cheese

1 lb. lean ground beef or ground turkey
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 large cloves fresh garlic, minced, or 2 teaspoons granulated garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
3 cans water (measure in tomato paste cans)
1 batch béchamel sauce, recipe below
1 lb. shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 16 oz. package whole wheat elbow macaroni (Barilla Plus is excellent)

1) Cook pasta according to package directions, drain, rinse and set aside. Prepare a large casserole baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350’.
2) In large skillet over medium high heat, cook ground meet until cooked through. Drain. Add onion, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook about 10 minutes to soften onions. Add tomato paste, mix well over heat. Cook 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
3) Add water and reduce heat to low, simmer while you’re making white sauce. Stir often.
4) In same you used for pasta, make béchamel sauce. (recipe below)  Once sauce is complete, add ½ shredded cheese and stir until cheese is melted.
5) Add meat sauce and cooked pasta to pot with white sauce. Mix well. Pour into prepared baking dish and top with remaining cheese.
6) Bake for 20 minutes.

Be ready for a very, very happy family!

*To heat after refrigeration:  Preheat oven to 350', poke holes in top with a fork, drizzle 1 cup of milk over, bake for 40-45 minutes.
**To heat after freezing:  allow to defrost in refrigerator for 2 days.  Oven to 350', poke holes in top with a fork, drizzle 1 cup of milk over.  Bake 45-55 minutes or until bubbly.

Simple Bechamel Sauce.....

This is a very simple white sauce that is essential in basic cooking.  Once you master this simple and elegant sauce, you can make things like macaroni and cheese, creamed soups, scalloped potatoes, just to name a few. 

Béchamel Sauce
(Basic White Sauce)

4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk, warm in microwave for 2 minutes, stir
1 teaspoon salt

1) In medium size sauce pan add butter to melt over medium heat. When butter is melted, add flour. Cook for two minutes over heat stirring constantly.
2) Add warm milk, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. Stir constantly until it starts to bubble, continue to cook for 2 minutes.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The other "girl" in our family.....

Well, I have not yet introduced a very important member of our family to date.  Today is the day.  Her name is "Gabby."  She is a Havanese.  She doesn't shed, and she doesn't "sass" back.  Our home is filled with men, so it's essential that our little doggie is a girl.   My men don't mind walking her, pink leash and sylish beaded collar and all, because she is a "chick" magnent.  You will also notice the very fashionable shearling coat.....fabulous!

In the photo you can see how she likes to sit, with her front paws resting on her hind paws, it's very cute.  You may also notice that she is on a leash.  She can be a tiny bit "naughty" so we have to confine her to the TV room.  She is very happy there, she can sit on the top of the couch and watch all the activity out our front window.

Of couse, my bit has to include something about food.  Gabby is also a "foodie."  Whenever I'm in the kitchen, peeling carrots, or simmering chicken bones for stock....she is at the end of her leash with one paw up, waiting.....patiently.....for carrot peels or tiny bits of chicken I pick off the bones.  She is extremely appreciative and never complains. 

She frequents the "beauty shop" more often than I and we just love her to pieces.  So, now you know "Gabs."  I adore animals, they're so good for the soul.

Have a wonderful weekend!!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Meatless Tamale Pie....

This is an excellent vegetarian one dish dinner recipe that will leave your tastebuds happy and your appetite satisfied.  The combination of the butternut squash, roasted poblanos, corn tortillas and white corn is absolutely delicious!  There are a few more steps to it than many of my other recipes, but it will totally be worth it.  You could roast the squash and prepare the poblano peppers a day or two ahead if you wish.  Why not double the recipe, freeze to enjoy at another time!

Meatless Tamale Pie

1 medium sized butternut squash, cut in half and seeded
1 cup water
2 teaspoons chili powder
Salt and pepper
3 poblano peppers
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
1 16 oz. bag frozen white corn
Salt and pepper
1 can black refried beans
1/3 cup non fat plain yogurt
16 oz. medium salsa verde
12-14 small corn tortillas
1 16 oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese

You will need a large casserole dish, spray generously with cooking spray. Set aside.
1) Preheat oven to 350’. Carefully cut squash in half, remove seeds. Place cut face down on cookie sheet and add water to pan. Bake until squash is soft, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool enough to handle.
2) Scoop squash out and put into medium size bowl. Add chili powder, a couple of pinches of salt and a pinch of pepper. Beat with a hand mixer or with a potato masher. Add enough water to resemble the consistency of mashed potatoes. Set aside.
3) Roast the rinsed poblano peppers until they blister over a gas flame on the range, on the grill, or in the broiler. Once blistered and charred, place in a bowl and cover with foil. Allow to steam for about 20 minutes.
4) In a large skillet, heat pan with canola oil over medium high heat. Add onions, cook about 6 minutes, add garlic and cook another minute. Add corn.
5) While corn is warming, remove core and seeds from roasted poblano peppers. Remove the skin and chop peppers coarsely. Add to pan with the corn. Season with cumin, salt and pepper. Taste. Remove from heat.
6) In a small mixing bowl, combine the refried beans and plain yogurt, mix well.
7) Cut corn tortillas in half. Layer bottom of casserole dish with halved tortillas.
8) Spread black beans over tortillas and half of the cheese.
9) Pour half of the salsa verde over beans, top with another layer of corn tortillas.
10) Spread squash over tortillas and add corn on top of it. Add remaining salsa verde.
11) Add one last layer of tortillas. Pour tomatoes with juice and spread evenly. Top with remaining cheddar cheese.
12) Bake at 350’ for one hour. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

This is excellent baked ahead, cooled and reheated. It will slice like lasagna. It freezes well. Serve with a cool salad with yogurt ranch dressing. Enjoy!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sign up for my newsletter......WIN a Mini Cuisinart Food Processor!!

I am so excited to finally have a date (Feb. 12) to post my first monthly newsletter!  If you sign up, you will receive it via email.  I will be giving hints as to what's coming up as well as cooking tips, time and money saving ideas and, of course, recipes.  This newsletter will be printable so you may have it in hand to read at your leisure.

I am very excited to announce that I have a wine expert, Nora,  to help with parings as well as general guidelines for serving wines.  We're going to call it "Nora Knows Wine."  Nora is going to be a monthy contributor to my blog, I can't wait!  I love wine but don't always know what to serve with what.  We will also entertain questions from readers.

Ok, the most exciting part of this whole newsletter thing is that if you sign up to receive it, you will be in a drawing to win a Mini Cuisinart Food Processor!  If you've already signed up for the newsletter, you're automatically in the drawing. This is one of my favorite kitchen applicances, you'll love it.

I will announce the winner on March 12th, and will promptly ship!

Thanks everyone!  Have a blessed day!


Friday, February 5, 2010

Wildly simple things you can do with frozen broccoli.....

I love quick and easy vegetables.  The first recipe below is for broccoli as a side dish, followed by the recipe pictured above. The beauty of it is that you can use frozen broccoli.  It is frozen at the peak of freshness. No need to buy the expensive"steam bags," this is less expensive and totally delicious!

1 pound package frozen broccoli florets (or one large head fresh, cut into bite size pieces)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 cloves fresh garlic or ½ teaspoon granulated garlic powder
2 pinches salt
1 pinch dried pepper flakes (optional)
Lemon wedge (optional)

1) Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper flakes, cook for one minute. Add frozen broccoli and cover with lid.
2) Stir after a couple of minutes, repeat until broccoli is heated through. Taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve warm with a squeeze of a fresh lemon wedge.

Take it a step further......add pasta and cheese and you have a delicious vegetarian main dish or add some left over shredded chicken.  Add whatever you like!

1 pound Barilla whole grain pasta
1 pound frozen broccoli florets
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
34 cloves fesh garlic or  1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon dried pepper flakes
1 cup reserved pasta water
Parmesean cheese to taste (about 1/4 cup is good)

1)  Before you begin to make the broccoli, cook whole wheat pasta according to package directions.  Reserve 1 cup pasta water before draining.
2)  Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add olive oil and onion.  Cook stirring often until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic, salt, and pepper flakes, cook for one minute.  Add frozen broccoli and cover with lid.   Additional ingredients you can add at this time if you wish:
  Sundried tomatoes,chopped
  Shredded chicken
  Left over diced italian sausage
  Fresh or frozen, drained spinach
  Frozen peas
  Fresh tomatoes
3)  Heat all ingredients through, 3-4 minutes.
4)  After a couple of minutes add pasta water and pasta, mix well to evenly combine.
5)  Toss with grated parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Morton Arboretum Celebrates Chocolate!

Aren't these lovely?   Photo/truffles by Julia Baker Confections of Scotsdale, AZ.   What a delicious way to be in touch with nature!  Please read the press release below to see the schedule of events throughout the month of February.

Thanks and have a wonderful day!


Monday, February 1, 2010

It's Show Time: WTTW Channel 11 Food Bloggers

"UFO"........Unidentified Food Object.....

This mystery vegetable is a cousin of the carrot and has a stronger taste.    It is pale in color and has significantly more vitamins and minerals than the carrot.  It also offers a significant amount of dietary fiber.    If you guessed Parsnip, you're correct.    I believe this vegetable is best oven roasted.  The natural sugars caramelize to make for a tender, sweet, excellent side dish to most any roasted meat or chicken.    It is also very good cut into chunks and adds heartiness to soups.  It's a good alternative to potatoes.   Simply peel, cut into even slices as shown, toss with a drizzle of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in a preheated 375' oven for 10 minutes, give a turn, and roast another 5-8 minutes.  Simple, delicious, and nutrutious.  Enjoy!