Posts Tagged With: Greek yogurt

flourless chocolate peanut butter oatmeal muffins

It’s been a while since my last muffins for Monday recipe (which included chocolate chunks, pecans, and bacon), not so much because I haven’t been making muffins, but because I haven’t been doing much blogging.

That said, today’s muffin recipe is brand new and so yummy that I just had to share!

breakfast is gonna be really good this week.....

breakfast is gonna be really good this week…..

Despite my love of all things chocolate and peanut butter, I have never combined these two ingredients in a muffin recipe before, probably because I don’t like eating dessert for breakfast.

(If you’ve tried any of my muffin recipes before, you know that they are all very lightly sweetened and a far cry from the cake-disguised-as-breakfast muffins that lots of people make. And I do enjoy eating a sweet ‘n’ fluffy muffin every now and again–just not first thing in the morning!)

This recipe is rich and flavorful, but not overly sweet, which makes it a perfect little muffin to start your day off in a hearty and (mostly) healthy direction.

I should disclose that this recipe was kind of inspired by those no-bake peanut butter chocolate oatmeal cookies that our cafeteria always used to serve for dessert when I was a kid. (Though not quite as good for you as my muffins, those cookies are darn tasty and super easy to make–here’s a recipe!)

I should also disclose that this recipe is flourless not because of any recent developments in our ability to tolerate wheat or gluten….

I just happened to be out of whole wheat flour…

So why not experiment? 🙂

What’s in it:

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 3/4 cup fat free Greek yogurt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Step by step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a larger bowl, beat together the peanut butter, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the wet stuff just until everything’s incorporated.
  • Divide your batter among your 12 muffin cups. Unless you’re scared of raw eggs (I’m not), feel free to lick your spoon clean of all those deliciously chocolate-y, peanut butter-y batter remnants.
  • Bake the muffins for 15-18 minutes or until they’ve risen nicely and are firm enough to spring back a little when you press the tops.
  • Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and cool to room temperature.

I ate one of these babies as soon as it left the pan, and it was pretty special. The cocoa flavor is dark and rich, and the nuttiness of the oats nicely complements the peanut butter flavor.

I was a little worried about how the texture would turn out since I had used all oats and no flour, fearing my muffins might end up a bit fragile and crumbly, but I think the eggs and the stickiness of the peanut butter gave them enough body and structure.

Now that I’ve made tried my hand at flourless muffins, I’m excited to try some more variations, and of course I’ll try to squeeze in a blog post here and there when I do. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

taco night! (and what we did with the leftovers)

Consider, if you will, the following Venn diagram:

milk does NOT go with tacos…..sorry, Mom….

Okay, so I’ve pretty much always liked tacos.

I remember getting really, really, I’m-almost-embarrassed-to-admit-it excited about trips to Taco Bell when I was in middle and high school. That stuff is like crack for teenagers.

Mexican restaurants? Like, the kind with free chips and salsa? Poor-college-kid paradise.

But let me tell you guys, the last couple of years have been a slow, delicious taco revelation.

So, without further ado, let me present to you a list.

Ahem.

Stuff I know now that I didn’t know in my Old El Paso days:

1. You can make your own tortillas.

Scratch that.

You must make your own tortillas.

Buy a big bag of masa harina (which, I learned, is a type of corn flour that’s been nixtamalized ). Mix it with water and a little salt to make dough (there are directions on the bag), form your tortillas, and toast them in a skillet until they look kinda like this:

warm, fresh, delicious

They’re impossibly easy, especially after you’ve successfully whipped up a batch or two, and once you’ve tried these rich, savory circles of toasted corn goodness, you’ll never crave a crumbly shell from a box again.

2. Ground beef is not a necessity, despite the directions on that Old El Paso package.

Use chicken, or tofu, or shrimp, or some other ground meat like pork or turkey. For our taco dinner the other night, we used medium heat pork breakfast sausage.

Yeah, I said breakfast sausage. Sounds weird, but it’s got just a little heat and spice to it that blends perfectly with smoky cumin and a mess o’ fajita-style veggies.

Heck, you could skip the meat altogether if you like and just pile your homemade tortilla down with some deliciously seasoned vegetables, and you’d be in taco heaven.

3. Wait. Veggies?

Yes, please!

I know those Old El Paso-ans suggest that the only vegetables you need for a good taco are some shredded iceberg lettuce, a little tomato, and perhaps a black olive or three.

But we like to pack our tacos with sauteed garlic, onions, and bell peppers, some roasted poblanos, creamy avocado, and roasted tomatillo salsa verde.

Not to mention a bright, beautiful handful of freshly chopped cilantro.

Tacos kinda seem like junk food, but when they’re loaded with all these garden goodies, they might even be good for you. 🙂

4. You don’t need sour cream.

Actually, Micah and I don’t even buy sour cream. Mostly because I don’t care for it, so it never gets used up before it goes bad.

But, really, sour cream is kind of a kitchen unitasker anyway. (I don’t know anyone who just eats the stuff plain.)

So if you can substitute an ingredient that serves multiple purposes and is actually good for you, why wouldn’t you?

It’s easy: any recipe that calls for sour cream will work just fine with plain Greek yogurt instead. (And plain Greek yogurt is a perfectly normal thing to eat by itself, unlike a big bowl of sour cream.)

That’s right. If you’re really craving a little bit of creamy tang on your taco, a little dollop of plain Greek yogurt will do the trick.

*     *     *     *     *

Now that I’ve shared our taco enlightenment, let me tell you about taco night.

this feast makes enough leftovers for several more taco nights, if you’re so inclined

The thing about tacos is that they’re anything but high-brow.

They’re street food, fast food, convenience food, kid food, easy food.

Tacos are what people make when they don’t feel like cooking.

But when you do feel like cooking, or when you’re whipping up a nice dinner to impress company or celebrate with friends, don’t shun the lowly taco.

If you let it, that handheld pocket of savory goodness will wow special guests, add cheer to any celebration, or even spice up a date night with your favorite person in the whole world.

What I’m suggesting here is a little more work than shells from box and a packet of seasoning mix. But it’s worth it.

This is a taco night to remember.

What’s in it (the taco filling):

  • 1 pound medium heat pork breakfast sausage
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked is fabulous)
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne or chipotle
  • salt and pepper

Step by step:

  • Brown the sausage over medium heat in a large skillet, stirring and breaking the meat up as it cooks.
  • When the sausage is done, drain off most (but not all) of the fat. Don’t throw it away–this stuff makes a great cooking fat for scrambled eggs tomorrow!
  • Add the garlic, onion, and bell peppers to your skillet o’ sausage and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5-8 minutes or until the veggies are tender.
  • Stir in the tomato, herbs, and spices, and cook for about 3-4 more minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.

Remember that roasted tomatillo salsa verde that I mentioned earlier? You can make it, too!

What’s in it (the salsa):

  • 3/4 pound fresh tomatillos, halved (or quartered, if they’re big)
  • olive oil, salt, and pepper for roasting
  • 1 avocado
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • juice from one lime
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste

Step by step:

  • Preheat your oven to 450°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the tomatillos on it in a single layer.
  • Brush the tomatillos with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast for 10-15 minutes or until they look really juicy and tender and sizzly and good.
  • Let the tomatillos cool for a few minutes, then throw them into the food processor or blender with the avocado, cilantro, lime juice, and cumin. Puree until your salsa as smooth as you like, then season with salt, pepper, and cayenne until it tastes amazing.

You’ve got taco filling and salsa…now what?

Serve those tasty fixins with:

  • homemade tortillas (this recipe is the same one that Micah and I use from DIY Delicious, and basically the same as what you’ll find on a bag of Maseca)
  • steamed rice (I seasoned mine with butter, salt, lime, and fresh cilantro)
  • black beans (Micah stewed ours in the pressure cooker with vegetable broth, chopped onion, garlic, and cumin)
  • roasted poblanos (brush with olive oil, bake at 400°F for 15-20 minutes, stick in a paper bag for 5-10 minutes, then peel, cut open, remove the seeds, and slice)
  • fresh sliced avocado
  • lots of chopped fresh cilantro
  • a little bit of grated cheese
  • lime wedges
  • Greek yogurt (or, if you must, sour cream)
  • good tequila that you can sip (not shoot) throughout the meal

And the leftovers?

That’s what omelets are for:

mmmm…….

Because taco morning is just as awesome as taco night! (Though at this point I might suggest laying off the tequila. :))

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

bacon, pecan, & chocolate chunk muffins

What do you get when you cross crispy, pan-fried, home-cured bacon with locally harvested pecans and sweet, creamy milk chocolate?

Muffins, of course!

I don’t know if you guys have missed my muffins for Monday posts, but I sure have missed making muffins!

Where have all my muffins been?

Well, here’s the thing. Since I’m a teacher, I have summers off. And during the summer, I don’t usually drag myself out of bed in time for much of a breakfast besides a big, strong cup of (possibly spiked) coffee. And Micah is perfectly happy smearing jam on some homemade whole-wheat sourdough or topping a bowl of creamy Greek yogurt with some sweet summer blueberries.

So, when I’m on vacation, the muffin recipes go on vacation, too.

But school has started back (with a vengeance–I’m crazy busy and kind of exhausted!)–so the muffins are back, too.

I wasn’t sure what yummy mix-ins I wanted to put in this week’s batch, but Micah suggested the perfect ingredient: bacon.

A quick scan of the cupboard revealed a container of pecan halves and a bar of milk chocolate.

Thus, this recipe was born.

And despite being full of bacon and chocolate, these muffins really aren’t that bad for you. Thanks to the whole wheat flour, they’ve got a little bit of fiber. Pecans, bacon, and Greek yogurt add protein. And using fat-free yogurt and no added oil or butter makes these relatively low in both fat and calories.

So I won’t feel guilty at all about devouring one of these tasty pastries for breakfast every morning this week. 🙂

a little bit o’ bacon in every bite

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 slices bacon, cooked, drained, and crumbled
  • 1 1.55 ounce milk chocolate bar, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pecan halves, roughly chopped

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 400°F and prepare a 12-cup muffin pan.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the flours, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  • In a larger bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk and yogurt.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the wet stuff, then fold in the bacon, chocolate, and nuts just until everything’s incorporated.
  • Divide your batter among your 12 muffin cups. If you’re not scared of raw eggs (I’m not), then feel free to lick your spoon clean of all batter remnants, which will taste just a little sweet and just a little salty (just like these muffins will be very soon).
  • Bake the muffins for 13-15 minutes or until they’re golden brown and spring back a little if you press the tops.
  • Let the muffins cool in the pan for a few minutes, then remove from the pan and cool to room temperature.

These yummy treats are fluffy and full of flavor, with just a hint of salty bacon and a touch of crunch from the chopped pecans, punctuated with little pockets of sweet, creamy chocolate.

I might add a bit more bacon next time, but these are fantastic just the way they are.

In fact, I have to tell y’all that while Micah pretty much always enjoys my muffins, he does usually prefer to slather them with a little bit of butter–but he said that this batch doesn’t need any. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

date-night dinner – 6.29.12 – disorderly josephs

I have to hand it to my mom and dad. Statistically, there is no way they should’ve been good parents.

When my mom found out she was pregnant with me, she was fifteen and my dad was barely eighteen. They were party kids, recklessly making mischief in our tiny town where, honestly, there was little else to do besides skinny-dipping in the lake or getting sloshed on Boone’s Farm.

Mom and Dad could have given me up, could have stayed trouble-making teens for at least a few years longer before gradually easing into the responsibilities of adulthood.

Instead, they got married, got jobs, had my brother Dave (so I wouldn’t be an only child), bought a house, settled down.

They grew up.

I remember one evening when I was little, sitting on the sofa and watching my mother iron. I asked her how old she was. “Nineteen,” she said. And all I could think, at three and a half, was that my mom was so old.

Now that I’m pushing 30, my own nineteenth year a whole decade gone, I shudder to imagine what kind of mom I might have been at that age. I was so impulsive, so self-centered, so careless. Such a kid.

Could I have enforced bathtimes, naptimes, mealtimes, bedtimes? Could I have woken in the night, time and time again, to feed and comfort a wailing child? Could I have handled potty training, or changing the sheets and flipping the mattress when accidents happened?

My parents, young as they were, did all of these things and more.

Once, when Dave and I were very small–not even in school yet, if memory serves–Mom and Dad took us for a rare dinner out. To hear them tell it, Dave and I were holy terrors: loud, misbehaving, and embarrassing the heck out of our poor, young, helpless parents. Mom and Dad were mortified, ready to snatch us up by the ears and carry us out kicking and screaming.

At some point during this meal, another diner in the restaurant approached our table. I’m sure my mom and dad braced themselves for a well-deserved tirade at their incompetent parenting of us unruly brats. But instead of complaining, this woman paid my parents a compliment. Dave and I, she said, were two of the quietest, most well-mannered children she had ever seen.

Yes, Mom and Dad always had high expectations for our behavior.

Mealtimes, for example, were a ritual that no one questioned.

We always sat around the table together, whether Dad had grilled burgers or Mom had made up a Crock Pot of fifteen-bean soup. We sat around that table together even on those rare occasions when supper was a pepperoni pie from Pizza Hut or submarine sandwiches from our local (and now defunct) deli, Ol’ Haileys.

The table was always set with silverware and paper napkins.

Dave and I always drank milk with dinner–no sodas or sweet tea in our house–and we ate what Mom or Dad had made for us, no exceptions, no special orders. We were expected to try new foods before we decided we didn’t like them. And if there was dessert, we could enjoy that sweet treat only after we had finished our dinner.

I say that no one dared question this sacred ceremony of supper, but that’s not entirely true.

My mom and I reminisced the other day about one of our very favorite meals: sloppy joes (Manwich from a can, obviously) with macaroni and cheese (Kraft from a box, naturally). The messy meaty sandwiches perfectly complemented those creamy orange noodles, all washed down with a tall glass of milk (of course).

But one night, for some reason that I promise I would tell you if only I could remember it, I decided I was not–do you hear me? NOT!–going to eat sloppy joes.

The napkins, the silverware, the glasses of milk were already on the table. The sloppy joes were already assembled on our plates, the macaroni and cheese already heaped beside them.

And I said, “I don’t like sloppy joes.”

“Yes you do,” Mom said. “You’ve had them before.”

“Well, I don’t want sloppy joes,” I said.

“Fine,” Mom said.

Young as she was, she knew she couldn’t win a battle of wills with a four-year-old. But she had size and authority on her side, so when she said what she said next, I had no choice but to obey. “Go to your room,” she said.

And I did.

I stalked to my room, sulked in my room, eventually sobbed in my room because I really was hungry and I really did want sloppy joes and macaroni and cheese, and my room was closest to the dining room, so I could hear everyone else eating and enjoying their sloppy joes and macaroni and cheese–enjoying their suppers while I moped, miserable and hungry.

When Dad finally came to get me, much later, I walked with him back to the dinner table. There, right where I had left it, was my lonely, cold plate. Cold sloppy joe. Cold macaroni and cheese, almost solid from sitting out for so long.

My three-year-old brother, I’m fairly certain, was messily slurping on the fudgsicle he’d earned for cleaning his plate.

I remember all of this so well: the argument with my mother, the haze of the setting sun filtering through my bedroom curtains as I wallowed while they all ate, the anger I felt before it dissolved into pitiful, hungry shame.

But I have no idea whether I ate that cold sloppy joe or went back to bed without eating a thing.

Either way, my mom and dad won.

It took me at least one more tantrum to learn my lesson for good–but the egg salad incident is another story for another time.

You’d think sloppy joes might dredge up painful memories for me, that the very thought of messy meat on a bun might propel me into a rage or a fit of tears.

But actually, despite my traumatic experience with these saucy sandwiches, I love sloppy joes. They make me smile with child-of-the-80s nostalgia, the same way I smile when I think of my teenage aunt Missy’s asymmetrical perm or those matching Easter dresses my mom sewed for us with the flowers and the puffy sleeves.

So when Micah and I were brainstorming ways to use up a surplus of sandwich buns we had leftover from that Hudson family cookout we hosted two weeks ago, one of the first things we thought of was sloppy joes.

Instead of ground beef or turkey, we defrosted a pound of ground pork breakfast sausage from Moonshine Meats, because it was what we had a lot of in the freezer. And since we don’t keep Manwich around, we used some of this stuff to sauce our sandwiches:

Emily G’s Berbere Sauce

Emily G’s is a Georgia-based purveyor of jams, sauces, and seasonings, and this particular sauce was the food item in our wine club box from Shiraz last month. I was familiar with berbere because of that Ethiopian meal I cooked a couple months back, and I had a hunch that the smoky, spicy, sweet flavors of the sauce might make a perfect sloppy joe.

When I told my mom about this meal, she laughed. “Those are too fancy to call sloppy joes,” she said. “What you made were disorderly josephs.”

this is actually a leftover disorderly joseph that I ate for lunch yesterday
(the lighting was better, and I liked the looks of that blue plate)

There’s really no recipe for me to tell you, but here’s how we made them:

  • Wrap four sandwich buns in foil and heat in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, brown 1 pound of medium heat pork breakfast sausage in a skillet over medium heat.
  • Drain off some of the fat, then return the skillet to the heat.
  • Stir in 4-6 tablespoons of the berbere sauce or another tomato-based sauce (depending on how disorderly you want your josephs to be).
  • Cook until the sauce has heated through and thickened a bit. You can add a sprinkle of flour if you want to help this along.
  • Once the meat is done cooking, get your warm buns out of the oven, open them up, and fill each one with a scoop of messy, meaty goodness.
  • Eat and enjoy–with plenty of napkins. 🙂

The beauty of sloppy joes is that you can really sauce them with whatever you happen to have around. Barbecue sauce and ketchup are perfectly reasonable options, not to mention salsa or marinara. Or you could sloppify your joes with a homemade sauce of fresh or canned tomatoes and whatever seasonings you feel like throwing in. The possibilities are truly endless.

In the fuzzy foreground of the above photo, you can see what we ate on the side, but here they are again:

notice the white plate? this was the first time we ate this meal

Micah made these delicious oven-baked french fries from a recipe on Fork and Beans for Shira’s Spiced Potato Bakes. We didn’t change a thing about the potato recipe, which Shira did quite a nice job explaining in the original post, so I’ll let you go visit that.

We did change up the dipping sauce, though, mostly because we had an excess of fresh parsley and no fresh cilantro. So here’s what I put in ours:

  • 3/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix all of this together in a small bowl and keep it cool in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat.

While sloppy joes disorderly josephs, oven-baked fries, and beer might not sound like much of a date-night dinner, I assure you that this lovely meal was perfectly suited for a happy Friday evening with my honey, just as it was perfectly suited for a lunch of leftovers yesterday.

And what if I make this supper for my kids some day and my own four-year-old daughter turns up her nose at one of my sloppy joes? Well, I would gobble up that poor, neglected sandwich in a heartbeat. 🙂

Categories: links, musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

supper tonight – 5.29.12 – beet & carrot salad, couscous with lentils (plus a quick lunch with the leftovers)

Root vegetables.

They’re kind of amazing, if you think about it.

All you see above ground are stems and greens. Sometimes tasty, sometimes bitter. Sometimes edible, sometimes poisonous.

Who in our hunter-gatherer ancestry first mined the hidden gems that flourish underground? Who was first curious enough to discover that some plants have wiry tendrils for roots, while others stand on concealed, crisp, bulging nuggets of stored nourishment? Who was first brave or hungry or reckless or stupid enough to unearth and eat one of these mysterious fruits from the earth, willing to risk sickness or death for the sake of a strange thing that might–or might not–be food?

It’s easy to scout your garden for the perkiest basil leaves, the fluffiest fennel fronds, the plumpest strawberries, the tenderest figs.

But until you part the earth to release its buried root treasures, you won’t know whether your carrots are pretty and slender like a maiden’s fingers or knobby and hooked like a witch’s claws. You won’t know what shape your potatoes or yams have taken until they’re out of the soil and in your palm.

(You can estimate size, of course–pretty accurately, even–based on when you planted those veggies and what above-ground signals they’ve transmitted. But really, you will never know for sure until you hold those secrets in your hand.)

Here’s the other thing about root vegetables: you’ve got to work for them.

Fresh herbs? Snip a few sprigs as you need them. Fruit and berries? Pluck ’em from the bush and enjoy. Quick, easy.

But with roots, the magic happens under the soil, and you can’t see it or hold it or taste it until you dig it up, unearth it, get a little grit and grime under your fingernails. Brave the worms and grubs and bugs, brave the mess, brave the unknown.

Carrots and beets? Prepare to get dirty. Prepare to scrub. Prepare for food that doesn’t really look like food at first, not until you’ve shined it up and shown the beauty underneath.

And once you’ve unearthed these treasures, please, do let them shine.

the (mostly) unadorned beauty of roots

Our salad, enjoyed warm, was simple: roasted beets and carrots tossed with crumbled feta and fresh parsley, drizzled with a cumin vinaigrette. The recipe comes from our favorite cookbook, Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South, which I know I’ve written about plenty already. But it’s our favorite, so it’s hard not to cook from it as often as we do. 🙂

What’s in it (the cumin vinaigrette):

  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (another wine vinegar would probably work well)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (Hugh toasts and grinds whole seeds, which we didn’t have–I’m sure this would add even more flavor)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, and cumin.
  • Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then the mint.
  • Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

This makes about 3/4 cup of dressing, so you will have extra leftover after you make the salad. You won’t mind, though, because it makes a great dressing for other salads or a crisp cabbage slaw (which I’ll tell you more about in another post).

What’s in it (the salad):

  • 1/2 pound carrots, left whole or halved if they’re very small, or cut up if they’re larger
  • 1/2 pound beets, halved or quartered if they’re very small, or cut up if they’re larger
  • a little olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • 2-3 ounces crumbled feta
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons cumin vinaigrette

Step-by-step:

  • Get a pot of salted water boiling on the stove.
  • Add the carrots, boil for 1 minute, then remove to a bowl to cool.
  • Add the beets and boil until they’re just tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain the beets and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Toss the carrots in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread them out on one side of the baking sheet.
  • Do the same to the beets, then spread them out on the other side of the baking sheet.
  • Roast for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned.
  • Let the vegetables cool for a few minutes.
  • In one bowl, toss the carrots with the feta, half of the parsley, and about a tablespoon of the vinaigrette.
  • In another bowl, toss the beets with the rest of the parsley and another tablespoon of the vinaigrette.
  • Add carrots to your plates first, then top with the beets and a little more of the vinaigrette.

We followed these instructions exactly, but if you don’t mind your beets bleeding a little on the rest of your salad, you could certainly mix them with the carrots on the roasting pan or when you toss the veggies with the vinaigrette at the end. This is probably what we’ll do next time.

The amount of salad this made could easily have been a light lunch for two or sides/starters for four. We were pretty hungry, so we added lentils and couscous to the meal to make it a little heartier, plus a bottle of white wine, because…well, why not?

the whole meal, with Micah waiting patiently in the background

The flavors in our mugs of lentils and couscous paired perfectly with the salad, so I’ll share how I made them, too.

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup dry couscous
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the lentils and stir around for a few minutes to coat them with the oil.
  • Add the tomato paste, diced tomato, orange zest, minced onion, and spices. Stir to incorporate.
  • Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.
  • Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are just tender.
  • Add the couscous. Bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat to very low and cover the pot. Let stand for about 15 minutes.
  • Uncover the pot, stir in the vinegar and white wine, then season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have more liquid then you’d like, you can simmer and reduce for a few minutes.

The orange zest, balsamic vinegar, and white wine brightened up the smoky, earthy flavors of the lentils and paprika, and the Mediterranean-inspired seasonings meshed beautifully with that colorful beet and carrot salad.

Really, the only problem with our lentil and couscous dish was that we made too much. If we’d eaten no salads, or much smaller salads, we would have had plenty of beans and starch for a main course–about 3-1/2 cups. But with our substantial vegetable dish, this was just too much to finish in one meal, so about a third of it went into the refrigerator as leftovers.

I love eating leftovers just as they are, especially if they were good the first time around (as this definitely was). But I also love experimenting with ways to transform old leftovers into something new and different, so of course that’s what I decided to do on Sunday for lunch. 🙂

similar flavors, completely different texture and form

What’s in it:

  • about 1-1/2 cups leftover couscous and lentils
  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko because that’s what I had in the pantry)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mixed Greek olives, finely chopped (or you could try subbing capers or a ready-made tapenade)

Step-by-step:

  • Use your hands to smoosh together the leftover couscous-lentil mixture, breadcrumbs, and egg (kind of like making a burger).
  • Divide the mixture into fourths and form into patties.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the patties to your pan and cook for about 4 minutes per side or until they’re nicely browned and firm.
  • Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of olives.

Wow. These came out better than I could’ve hoped or expected.

Of course I knew they ought to taste pretty good since we had enjoyed the original dish so much, but I worried about the texture. Needlessly, because the outsides of these couscous lentil cakes were nice and crisp, while the insides were moist and flavorful. Combined with the creamy, tangy yogurt and the salty, briny olives, this lunch was even better than the leftovers that inspired it.

So good, in fact, that I know we’ll have to cook up these little cakes again the next time we make a batch of that splendid root vegetable salad.

Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

muffins for….uh, Thursday – 5.24.12 – Lilly’s strawberry nectarine

Who’s Lilly, you ask?

My smart, silly, beautiful six-year-old niece!

Lilly and I have a lot in common. We both love to read. We both love school. We’re both, well, not super coordinated. And we both like to cook!

So when my brother Dave asked if Lilly could hang out with me this morning for a couple of hours, of course that was fine by me.

For most of Lilly’s visit, I was a pretty boring hostess. I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. I washed, dried, and folded two loads of clothes. I scooped out the litter box.

Lilly had more fun. She decorated a bookmark with scented markers (which I didn’t even know I had!), and she read a few chapters of Charlotte’s Web (one of my very favorite children’s books), and she snuck up on me a few times while I was working and yelled, “Boo!” This was funny while I was folding clothes. Less funny when I was hand-washing our three sharpest knives–but I didn’t get cut, so I guess it’s okay. 🙂

Anyway, the other thing I needed to get done today involved nectarines. Three pretty little nectarines from Daily Grocery that I saw the other day and couldn’t pass up. Three not-as-pretty little nectarines once they sat in the fridge for a week. (Yes, they got a little mushy, just like my bananas and pears seem to do most of the time.)

I showed Lilly the wrinkly nectarines. “These aren’t really good for snacking on anymore, but they’ll be great if we smoosh them up and put them in some muffins. Wanna help?”

Of course she did!

Once I cut the mushy fruit away from the pits, it was Lilly’s job to press the button on the food processor to whir those faded beauties (peel and all) into a red-flecked golden puree. Standing on a step-stool, of course.

“Can we have strawberries, too?” she asked.

So I cut up some strawberries while Lilly cracked two eggs into the fruit, then stirred it all up with some Greek yogurt.

While Lilly worked the wet ingredients (singing “Muffins, muffins, muffins” the whole time), I measured most of the dry stuff. Lilly did the salt, baking soda, and baking powder. (Her Granny, my mom, has taught her well–she knows to scoop with the measuring spoon, then level it off before adding it to the bowl.)

One of Lilly’s charming quirks is that she wants to taste everything, even stuff you wouldn’t think a kid would like. I’ve seen her grind fresh black pepper into her palm and lick it up, sprinkle a pinch of cinnamon directly onto her tongue, eat a piece of raw lemon (including the rind), and now–lick baking powder straight from a measuring spoon.

“It tastes salty,” she informed me.

“I’ll bet!” I said.

Lilly mixed all of the dry ingredients, dumped them into the bowl of wet ingredients, added the strawberries, then stirred it all together. (I helped with this because the batter was pretty thick.)

I started to let Lilly spoon the batter into the muffin tin, but since it was almost time for her dad to pick her up, I asked her if she would mind my doing it instead. (“That way, they’ll be ready before you leave!”) She agreed that this would be the best course of action. 🙂

The finished muffins were too hot for Lilly to eat one before she left, but I did send a few home with her so she could have one after it cooled.

I ate one just a few minutes ago, and it was fabulous.

of course I couldn’t resist brightening up the picture with a few of
the fresh strawberries (from a little farm stand near Anderson, SC)

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 ounces raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2-3 nectarines, pureed (with the peel is fine)
  • 3/4 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • about 3/4 cup diced fresh strawberries

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and get a 12-cup muffin pan ready. (“Now you’ve got to use the non-stick spray,” Lilly told me. I showed her my rubbery red silicone muffin pan and told her it didn’t need any. “What if it was made of tin?” she asked. “Well,” I said, “then I guess I’d need some non-stick spray.”)
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, sunflower seeds, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Let your niece lick the measuring spoon if she really wants to. 🙂
  • In a larger bowl, stir together the pureed nectarines, yogurt, and eggs.
  • Add the dry ingredients and strawberries to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Don’t forget to take turns!
  • Scoop the batter into the muffin cups, then bake for about 20 minutes. Visit the oven every few minutes to peek through the window and see how your muffins are doing. Comment on how good they smell!
  • Remove the muffins to a rack to cool.
  • Make sure you share these sweet treats with someone you really love. ♥

 

Categories: people, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

muffins for Monday – 5.12.12 – carrot zucchini

He moved too quickly. I couldn’t warn him. By the time I realized what he was doing, it was too late.

His teeth sank into the warm muffin.

I waited.

He didn’t gag, didn’t choke, didn’t make a face, didn’t spit it out.

In fact, he gobbled up the whole thing and washed it down with a glass of milk.

Who? My stepdad, Chuck, whose favorite foods include steak, ice cream, Mountain Dew, and Oreo O’s cereal.

What? A whole-wheat muffin packed full of oats, nuts, and…da da DUM!–vegetables.

If you knew Chuck, you would realize how much this doesn’t make sense. At all. At least 47 different laws of nature were defied when that fresh breakfast bread entered his digestive system without being rejected and hastily ejected.

Granted, when Chuck snatched that fresh-from-the-oven muffin from my cooling rack last Saturday morning, he didn’t know at first what he was eating. He was hungry, needed breakfast, saw a muffin. It was only on closer inspection that he noticed this particular muffin “had, like, sticks and twigs in it.”

And so it was that a veggie-filled whole-wheat muffin worked a miracle. Chuck ate something healthy. And liked it.

(And I’ll bet you’ll like it, too!)

the muffin that made the miracle

What’s in it:

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 ounces finely chopped walnuts
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • 1 cup grated zucchini

Step-by-step:

  • Preheat your oven to 425°F and get a 12-cup muffin pan ready.
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and nuts.
  • In a large bowl, beat the two eggs. Add the yogurt and vanilla and beat until smooth.
  • Stir the dry ingredients into the wet, then fold in the carrots and zucchini until just combined. (The batter will be pretty thick–this is okay. The veggies will release more moisture as they cook.)
  • Divide the mixture between the 12 muffin cups and bake for about 20 minutes.
  • Let cool and enjoy!

Based on a recipe from Marcus Samuelson’s website, these veggie-flecked miracle muffins were warm, moist, and delicious.

My mom loved them, too, by the way–but this was much less of a surprise as she’s always been a pretty healthy eater. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

quick lunch – 3.13.12 – not my Mammaw’s pimiento cheese

Pimiento cheese is the stuff of the devil.

My Mammaw loved this orange goo at least as much as she loved triple-decker mayonnaise sandwiches, probably because the kind she bought was pretty much a tub o’ mayo (or, more likely, a mayo-like “salad dressing”) with a bit of pasteurized processed cheese food thrown in to give it that bland, vaguely cheese-like color.

For example, the ingredient list for Knott’s Old Fashioned Pimiento Cheese Spread is an entire paragraph long and includes all sorts of things that you won’t find in most people’s kitchens: sodium phosphate, potassium sorbate, calcium disodium EDTA, and even the ever-controversial high fructose corn syrup (which boggles my mind because why, oh why, would you need to sweeten pimiento cheese, anyway?). Yep, Knott’s might claim on the packaging that this old-fashioned cheese product was established in 1947 (when Mammaw was 12), but I’m pretty sure no one’s grandma has ever made her pimiento cheese based on their recipe.

(The jalapeno version was even recalled a few years back due to metal fragments being found in the product. Also not a common ingredient in most home kitchens.)

Anyway, my dislike of pimiento cheese when I was a kid had much more to do with its mayonnaise-to-cheese ratio than any of this, and after trying it once when I was a wee lass, I was sure I’d never want to eat it again. I successfully avoided it throughout my childhood and most of my adult life, even when it was homemade, because it just grossed me out.

Fast-forward to a few years ago, when a late-afternoon visit to Five and Ten changed my life forever.

Micah and I had strolled down to this wonderful restaurant one afternoon for an early dinner, but I wasn’t super-hungry, so I perused the snackies section of the menu for something small that I could enjoy with a cup of soup. Feeling a bit reckless, I decided to order the pimiento cheese. I knew I hated the stuff. I knew it might make me gag. But I figured that if anyone could make me like it, it might be Hugh Acheson. And Micah (who doesn’t share my mayo aversion) promised he would eat it for me if I couldn’t.

Well, Hugh did not succeed in making me like pimiento cheese that day.

He made me love it.

He made me love it so much that I immediately decided I must make my own batch so I could eat pimiento cheese all the freaking time.

The only problem was, I didn’t have his recipe, and I had no idea how he had made it so damn delicious. So, I did what I always do when I don’t know what I’m doing. I winged it. And the results were fantastic.

I’ve been making my own pimiento cheese for three or four years now, tweaking the recipe here and there to suit my own tastes. Since I don’t like hate loathe mayonnaise, and since Micah can’t usually consume a whole jar of the stuff before the expiration date, it’s not something we keep around the house. So one big change in my recipe is using Greek yogurt in place of the mayo. This might sound strange, but I promise–you won’t miss that fatty egg-goo at all, and the yogurt gives you the added bonus of less fat and more protein (not, of course, that anyone eats pimiento cheese for its health value).

Here’s the batch I made this week:

I could eat this whole bowl in one sitting.

Even if you don’t like pimiento cheese–especially if you don’t like pimiento cheese!–you should try this recipe. (Or Hugh’s.) It just might change your life.

What’s in it:

  • 1 pound of sharp cheddar (the sharper, the better)
  • half of a 12-ounce jar of pimientos or roasted red peppers (or just roast your own)
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked, if you have it, but regular is yummy, too)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne (or chipotle, if you want it smokier, which I like)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a little apple cider vinegar if you like yours tangy (which we do)

Step-by-step:

  • Cut the cheddar into cubes and toss it in the food processor.
  • Add the pimientos, yogurt, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, dry mustard, paprika, and cayenne/chipotle.
  • Process until you’ve got the texture you like. (We like ours creamy and spreadable, but if you like yours chunkier, just process a little less.)
  • Taste it! Add salt, pepper, and/or vinegar if needed.
  • Enjoy!

This makes a pretty big batch, which we eat on toast, crackers, cold sandwiches, or–my favorite–grilled cheese sandwiches. (Heaven!) It’s tangy, salty, smoky, and spicy, just how I like it. I can eat gobs of it in a sitting, and sometimes do.

Yep, pimiento cheese really is the stuff of the devil. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: