Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pre Thanksgiving Food

Before any holiday that is centered around gluttony, I like to spend a few days making sure that I eat light and healthy. I usually don't even end up eating that much on holidays because I get full too fast, but I always intend to. I love food, and just thinking about all that comfort food in one place gets me to start thinking about the best strategy to be able to eat as much as possible in one meal. And then there's dessert. Oh the pies, cookies, and other random sweet treats gathered around the house. It's all too much for my food loving brain to bear! So anyways, the point is that this week I am making very light and simple dinners, so that if I happen to be able to eat as much as I want to on Thursday, I will not have to feel like a complete pig. Last night I made rice and beans. I used to make this a lot when I was in college because I was a vegetarian, and it is so cheap and easy to make. It is packed with veggies and is also really filling. It is not any sort of authentic rice and beans okay? It is just my own concoction of deliciousness, so don't be expecting Dominican Rice and Beans, or Cost Rican Rice and Beans. Those are all super delicious too, but that is not what I am talking about here.
All you will need is:
1 Tblsp olive oil
1 (15 oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 half of a medium onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 C cooked brown rice

Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add onions, green pepper, and garlic. Stir to coat, and cook until tender. Add beans and tomatoes and cook until heated through. This should only take a few minutes.
Spoon bean mixture over the rice, and dig in. So easy, flavorful, and healthy. We usually have a little bit of the bean mixture left over, and it is great as a dip for tortilla chips or as a topping for many other things. Enjoy!

I plan to make hummus to eat tonight and tomorrow, also easy and healthy.

15 oz garbanzo beans or chick peas
2 tablespoons minced onion,
a few cloves of garlic, depending on how much you like-I add 3-4. You can add the garlic to the food processor whole, no need to mince it ahead of time.
7 tablespoons of lemon juice
a few teaspoons of good quality olive oil, (if you do not have good oil, just leave it out)
2 tablespoons of tahini.
Throw everything in your food processor and pulse until it is smooth. You can top it with fresh parsley if you want to. This will just add some color and a nice boost of flavor. Serve with fresh pita bread, carrot sticks and cucumber slices. Yum!

What are you pre-holiday eating strategies? Eat more or eat less? I am curious.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Accidental Cookie

I made these cookies completely on accident. I know, I know it makes no sense, unless you know me and how oblivious I can some times be. Then, it makes perfect sense. I was really trying to make the cookies on the neighboring page of my Simply In Season Cookbook. One of our favorite types-Oatmeal and fruit cookies. I still have to loosely refer to the recipe because I don't have a great memory and I have only made them a few times. I start throwing ingredients into a bowl according to the page that I am reading, and in the back of my brain is a voice saying "this does not seem right". Finally I take a step back and realize that I am in the process of making Sunflower Chip Cookies instead. These sounded pretty great too, and I happened to have everything on hand so I pressed 0n. They are delicious, and since they have only whole wheat flour, and only brown sugar, I keep telling myself that they are healthy, and a great source of protein too! This may or may not be true, but I am sticking with it! I am now addicted to these cookies, and have eaten almost all of them. Tim likes them, but thinks they are "too nutty". I still keep catching him with his hand in the cookie jar, so he must like them a little bit! :-)

Sunflower Chip Cookies
*recipe from Simply In Season pg 314

3/4 C Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 C Wheat Germ
1/2 t Baking Soda
2 T Dry Milk Powder
1/2 C Butter, softened
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1/2 t Vanilla
1 C Chocolate Chips (or substitute raisins)
1/2 C Roasted Sunflower Seeds
1/2 C Chopped Peanuts

pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
Mix together the flour, wheat germ, milk powder, and baking soda. Set aside.
Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla. Stir in dry ingredients.
Stir in the chocolate chips (or raisins), sunflower seeds, and peanuts. drop by rounded teaspoons on a greased baking sheet, and bake for 8-12 minutes.
Easy and delicious, and if you ask me-healthy! I even had one after breakfast one day :-0

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Mashed Potato and Black Bean Burritos

One of my favorite restaurants, Irazu-a Costa Rican restaurant in Wicker Park, has an interesting vegetarian taco flavor. Mashed potato. Ever since the first time I went there I have wanted to try these tacos because it was such a unique idea to me. I finally ordered them a couple of months ago, and was not disappointed at all. It is simply plain mashed potatoes inside a taquito style shell. Nothing super flavorful, but simple and satisfying.
This week I was shopping for sweet potatoes to make a dish that is a staple in our house-sweet potato and black bean burritos. All of the sweet potatoes at our produce market were really gross, and my mind immediately went to the mashed potato tacos from Irazu. "Why not sub in mashed potatoes for the sweet potato cubes?" I thought. And so, I left with a gigantic 8 pound bag of baking potatoes (it was on sale for $1.50 and I am sucker for a good bargain!). I knew I would have to add a lot more seasoning than I normally do with the sweet potatoes because, let's face it...baking potatoes are just kind of bleh on their own. My result was a creamy, delicious burrito that leaves you feeling pretty full and has a touch of comfort food as a result of the mashed potatoes. Perfect for a cold winter, or fall, night.

Mashed Potato and Black Bean Burritos

6 small baking potatoes
chili powder
garlic salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 large (28 oz) can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 0z can of diced tomatoes, drained
1 C grated sharp cheddar cheese
8 burrito size tortillas

Peel and halve about 6 small baking potatoes. Place them in a large pot and fill with enough water to cover the potatoes. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until potatoes are easily poked with a knife or fork. This should take about 10 minutes.
Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
Use a hand mixer to blend mashed potatoes and butter. You want the potatoes to be significantly more dry than normal mashed potatoes because they are going to be mixed with a lot of other things. You don't want them to get too rich and over-power the dish. Add in some cumin, chili powder, cinnamon, and garlic salt to taste. I do not have exact measurements for this, but do it according to the flavors you like. Add some, mix it up, taste, repeat. You want the potatoes to be pretty well seasoned to provide a good base for all of the other ingredients.
You also want to cook your black beans before adding them to the burritos. After they have been rinsed simply throw them in a pan and cook them until they are heated through.
Spray a baking dish with cooking spray. Lay a tortilla flat and spread a thin layer of mashed potatoes in the center. Top with a scoop of black beans, then a scoop of diced tomatoes, then some cheese. Roll of the tortilla and place it in the baking dish, seam side down. Repeat this with the remaining ingredients. Put your burritos in the oven and cook for 30 minutes.
Take them out and allow them to cool for about 5 minutes.
This is an all-in-one meal, no need for any accompaniments, but if you want something else, stick with some good quality tortilla chips and some fresh salsa. This is a very heavy meal, so keep everything else simple.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Basic Biscuits

Tim loves bread. Shawna loves soup. I look forward to the colder months so that I can live off of soup. Tim has a black hole for a stomach and cannot quite wrap his brain around the idea of soup being his whole meal. So, out of guilt, I decided to make him some biscuits to go along with our soup. This seems to make him feel better about the meal, and I feel like I can enjoy my soup without worrying whether Tim is still starving. What a relief!
I believe the first round that I made were cheddar cheese biscuits with a hearty broccoli soup. Tim loved this. Last night I made lentil soup. Tim is not crazy about this soup because he thinks it is boring. I knew he was gonna need some biscuits to get through that meal! I made a basic biscuit recipe and just added a tablespoon, maybe a little more, of sour cream to the dough. This made them super moist. They spread a bit more while baking, so they were thinner than normal, but I thought they were really delicious. Tim also liked them, but thought that I should add both sour cream and cheese next time...can you tell the boy has Wisconsin in his blood???

Here is the basic biscuit recipe:
*from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book Pg 27

2 C all-purpose flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t sugar
3/4 t salt
1 C butter milk -see note below-it will make your life easier
8 T (1 stick) melted butter, slightly cooled

*note* If you do not have buttermilk on hand, you can make soured milk out of 1 C of milk, 1 T lemon juice, and 1 T white vinegar. Let this stand at room temperature for 10 minutes at which point it should be thickened. I usually don't keep buttermilk in the house, so I find this to be really helpful.

If you want cheesy biscuits just add enough grated cheese so that it looks like it is evenly spread throughout the dough. I think I probably used a cup of grated cheddar cheese, but I didn't measure, so you should add a little bit at a time, stir, keep adding until it looks like you have enough. I am very precise, aren't I? :-)

If you want the sour cream biscuits add about a tablespoon of sour cream into your dough, and leave a little extra space in between biscuits on the cookie sheet because they spread more than the normal ones.

Adjust oven rack the center slot and pre-heat oven to 475 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray of line with parchment paper.
Mix flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix butter and buttermilk together until the butter starts to form small clumps. Stir the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture together just until incorporated. You don't want to over-mix or your biscuits will be tough.
Use a greased 1/4 C measure to scoop dough onto cookie sheet. Bake until the tops are golden brown and crisp, 12-14 minutes. Rotate the pan halfway through baking.
Serve warm.

Sorry I don't have any pictures of these!